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Helicopter winds to be used to clear snow and ice from Alex Fraser Bridge

Kenneth Chan Dec 16, 2016 8:15 am 4,091

A highly rudimentary method is being pursued by the BC Ministry of Transportation as the temporary solution for removing snow and ice from the Alex Fraser Bridge.

In a release, until it can find a permanent solution, the provincial government says it will utilize a heavy-lift helicopter to clear the bridge cables of any snow during the expected snowfall this weekend. High winds from the rotors will blow away any snow that accumulates on the suspension bridge cables.

This is in response to two lengthy daytime closures, lasting for over four hours, on the bridge from the snowfalls earlier this month on December 10 and December 12.

Crews with the BC Ministry of Transportation prepare the Alex Fraser Bridge for snow. (Photo credit: Ministry of Transportation)

“The first was a large amount of snow accumulating on the cables. Most years, there is very little snow or the snow blows off without accumulating,” reads the release. “The second factor was the cycling of temperatures and wind direction, which increases the likelihood of shedding snow and ice.”

With the temporary helicopter method of clearing the snow and ice, any bridge lane closure times should be limited to two to three hours.

With the Port Mann Bridge, the cables span over lanes of traffic to meet with the bridge towers positioned at the centre of the structure. This caused snow and ice to fall directly onto the lanes of traffic below, and it prompted the provincial government to install a de-icing system of cable collars shortly after the problem was identified.

A chain-link collar ring weighing 10 kg is manually released at the top of the suspension bridge’s tower. As it speeds down the 288 cables, it clears any snow and ice buildup.

Crews with the BC Ministry of Transportation work on manually releasing the chain-link cable collars on the Port Mann Bridge to clear snow and ice. (Photo credit: Ministry of Transportation)

The provincial government says the cable collar system has been effective in clearing the cables of snow, and crews will continue making snow-clearing drops this weekend if necessary.

Unlike the Port Mann Bridge, the cables of the Alex Fraser Bridge are located on the side of the bridge. But its traffic lanes are still prone to falling ice and snow when high winds blow any falling ice towards the direction of the bridge.

Kenneth Chan
National Features Editor at Daily Hive, the evolution of Vancity Buzz. He covers local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation and infrastructure, and the travel industry. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]

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