There will be another lane of traffic across the Fraser River between Richmond and New Westminster next year.
Earlier today, the federal and provincial governments announced a joint project to narrow the existing six lanes on the Alex Fraser Bridge and remove the shoulders to add a seventh lane of traffic.
The direction of traffic will be controlled by a new counterflow system using a moveable zipper-like barrier system along the length of the bridge deck. There will be four lanes of northbound traffic during the morning peak period and four lanes of southbound traffic beginning at the start of evening peak period and lasting throughout the remainder of the day.
The provincial government claims adding a new counterflow lane will reduce travel times by between 12 and 16 minutes during the evening rush hour and about six minutes during the morning rush hour. It is anticipated that the new lane will be ready by spring 2018.
Two other crossings in the region, the Lions Gate Bridge and the George Massey Tunnel, also use counterflow lanes systems, but their lane directions are controlled by boom gates at the entrances of the crossings.
Video of a similar moveable zipper-like barrier system on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco:
As well, 13 electronic signs will be installed at ‘key decision points’ on highways across the region to provide drivers with real-time information about crossings delays for four crossings over the Fraser River including the Alex Fraser Bridge.
The $70-million cost of the project is roughly split between the senior governments, with the provincial government committing $36.13 million and the provincial government with $33.965 million.
“This project will help cut congestion on the Alex Fraser Bridge, which is important for commuters, for local businesses and for our trucking industry,” said Todd Stone, BC Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, in a statement.
“Projects like this create high-paying, family-supporting jobs, and through these strategic investments in our transportation infrastructure, we’re building a brighter future for B.C. – together.”
However, the future traffic conditions on the Alex Fraser Bridge have been a source of much controversy as the Ministry anticipates there will be an increase of 15% in traffic on the crossing once the tolled 10-lane replacement bridge for the George Massey Tunnel is completed. Others have also brought up concerns over the possibility of gridlock on the Oak Street Bridge further up north on Highway 99 as a result of the additional traffic from the new, wider crossing.
Construction for the $3-billion Massey Tunnel replacement is anticipated to begin later this year for a completion in 2022.