Free Wi-Fi for truckers and motorists in the North

Truck drivers and motorists in Northeast B.C. are getting free Wi-Fi at a number of vehicle inspection stations, while truckers and motorists in the Lower Mainland will see a new, $1.377-billion Pattullo Bridge built over the Fraser River.

The province made two transportation infrastructure announcements Friday morning.

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It says free Wi-Fi has been installed at 24 inspection stations across B.C.

In the Northeast, that includes stations at 13350 Highway 2 in Dawson Creek, 9011 Alaska Highway North at Charlie Lake, and 2809 Alaska Highway North in Fort Nelson.

"The Wi-Fi-enabled inspection stations will allow commercial drivers to check DriveBC for highway delays or closures affecting their route, obtain transport permits for future trips, and stay connected to friends, family and colleagues back home," the ministry said in an announcement.

The service will also be installed at two stations in Prince George, and at stations in Terrace, Valemount, and Vanderhoof.

Meanwhile, the province announced it will replace the aging Pattullo Bridge with a brand new, four-lane crossing with walking and cycling lanes at a cost of $1.377 billion. The project also includes new road connections and off ramps.

The bridge was open to traffic in 1937 and is past its 50-year design life by 30 years, the province said.

"This is an essential transportation link that British Columbians rely on, and it's our job to make sure it's safe and gets people moving better," Premier John Horgan said in an announcement.

"Replacing the Pattullo Bridge will help people get home to their families quickly and safely, while creating good jobs for local workers."

A engineering review of the aging Taylor Bridge is due in the mInistry's hands this spring. The ministry will use the new study to determine the best long-term option for the bridge based on economic impact to the area, as well as cost. 

Inspection reports have given the bridge an "urgency" rating of four out of five, meaning there are dire economic consequences should the span be closed.

The bridge, opened in 1960, has carried an average of 5,000 drivers a day across the Peace River at the same spot where its predecessor collapsed after a 1957 landslide. 

Estimates to replace the bridge as a two lane have been pegged as much as $100 million. 

The District of Taylor has signalled its support of four-laning the Alaska Highway through the district if the bridge were to be improved and expanded to four lanes.

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