$70-million counterflow lane on the Alex Fraser Bridge opening this December

Dec 12 2019, 11:29 pm

A moveable barrier system with a zipper truck is about to make its debut on the Alex Fraser Bridge to make the “crossing safer and faster for commuters,” the BC government announced on Thursday.

An extra lane through a moveable, zipper-like barrier system will be provided for counterflow, and it will provide more traffic capacity for the peak hour directions. Such a system is similar to the zipper-like counterflow barrier system on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The new lane, which involves the narrowing of the bridge deck to accommodate an additional seventh lane of traffic, was originally planned to open in the spring of 2018 before it was delayed for the first time to fall of that year.

The opening of the project was again delayed to this summer, before being delayed once more to this month, due to what the Ministry of Transportation said was necessary extra engineering work for both cycling upgrades and the cable replacement process.

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.

The Alex Fraser counterflow design, however, “improves capacity on the bridge and eliminates potential for cross-over collisions during counterflow, as traffic is continually separated by barriers,” the government said.

The system is in the testing phase and expected to be in place for drivers sometime in mid-December 2019.

“The Alex Fraser Bridge project shows how we are working closely with our partners to build the modern transportation infrastructure needed to keep people safe and support long-term economic growth,” said Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

“I’m thrilled to welcome the zipper system to the Alex Fraser Bridge, which will create an additional lane during peak times and keep drivers protected by barriers,” said Ravi Kahlon, MLA for Delta-North. “It will make a noticeable and positive difference for about 120,000 people who drive across the Alex Fraser Bridge every day, getting people to work and back home to their families more quickly and reliably.”

The extra lane will be in place for northbound traffic every weekday from 4:30 am to 11:30 am to help ensure a more efficient and consistent travel time during the morning commute. Outside of these hours, the fourth lane will be open to ease congestion for southbound traffic.

Upgrades for cyclists and pedestrians include new wayfinding signs, better access via the Cliveden Avenue interchange, widening narrow sections of sidewalk on the bridge and improving the Cliveden and Nordel pathways.

Previously completed work on the bridge also includes:

  • strengthening the bridge to accommodate the additional weight of another lane of traffic (repairing the main span deck, modifying expansion joints and stiffening girders);
  • creating a seventh lane to the bridge by removing the shoulders and reconfiguring the pre-existing six lanes from 3.7 metres to 3.55 metres wide;
  • adding additional lanes southbound on Highway 91 between Nordel Way and 72nd Avenue; and
  • upgrading the Cliveden Avenue and Nordel Way interchanges, including a new signal for traffic accessing the Alex Fraser Bridge northbound from Nordel Way.

The South of Fraser Advance Traveller Information System portion of the project is ongoing and expected to be finished in spring 2020. Thirteen new dynamic message signs are being installed that will predict the estimated travel time on four major Fraser River crossings – Alex Fraser Bridge, Port Mann Bridge, Pattullo Bridge and the George Massey Tunnel.

Signs allowing drivers to choose their best route will be located along Highway 17, Highway 1, Highway 10, Marine Way and Knight Street.

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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