Drivers can expect a few changes around Highway 1 access and exit points in Surrey starting this weekend.
There will be traffic pattern changes at the 176 Street interchange, as all traffic will be shifted to the new 176 Street overpass starting Saturday, Dec. 17 (weather-dependent); on Sunday, Dec. 18, there will be some traffic detours and lane closures at Highway 1 and 160 Street as well, scheduled between midnight and 4 a.m.
The changes are all related to the ongoing Port Mann Bridge/Highway 1 improvement project, which will eventually mean a new, 10-lane Port Mann Bridge, among other upgrades.
The entire project, which spans about 37 kilometres – from McGill Street in Vancouver to 216 Street in Langley – includes the construction of the new bridge, widening the highway, upgrading interchanges, and improving access and safety on Highway 1.
Construction began in March 2009, but the planning began years earlier, according to projects spokeswoman Pam Ryan.
"In 2003, when we first started planning, congestion (on Highway 1 and the Port Mann Bridge) was already at 13 hours a day, by our estimate," she said.
Ryan said ongoing improvements – scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013 – will help reduce congestion-related idling, lower costs for truckers and goods movers, and give people on the road flexibility and options so that one car accident won't jam up the entire regional transportation corridor.
"People will be able to save up to an hour a day... up to 30 per cent of your commute," Ryan said.
The new bridge is scheduled to open in winter of 2012-2013, likely December, she noted, and all is proceeding on-schedule and on-budget – $3.3 billion for the total project cost and $2.46 billion for the design-build contract.
Even though the bridge will initially open with eight lanes (four in each direction), Ryan said "that basically doubles capacity on opening day."
Tolling systems will be operating on the new bridge, charging about $3 per car (larger vehicles will pay more) on opening day, but the province and TransLink are working together to have the Highway 1 Rapid Bus service in place on opening day as well. That service is a joint initiative between the provincial government and TransLink and will provide services from Langley (at the new 202 Street park and ride/transit exchange) to Burnaby in 25 minutes.
Seven Highway 1 overpasses are currently being widened in Burnaby and Vancouver, while nine are being replaced, including 152, 160 and 176 Streets in Surrey. At the Cape Horn interchange, 15 new overpasses and underpasses are being built or rebuilt.
"Things are going very well on the Surrey side (of the bridge)," Ryan said.
"We just finished our busiest construction season ever. We passed the 50-per-cent complete mark in August, despite the wet summer."
Special-purpose highway ramps (HOV/transit ramps, trucks-only ramps) are being included at five locations: Grandview Highway, Government Street, 202 Street, United Boulevard and 156 Street.
A new eastbound ramp is underway at 160 Street, while the Barnston Drive overpass should be open for public use this month or in January of 2012. Drivers should expect changes exiting from the Port Mann Bridge onto 152 Street in the new year, Ryan said, as crews remove the old overpass and build a new ramp.
So far, motorists have been understanding about the construction and why it is needed, she said. The current bridge was built in the early 1960s when the population of Metro Vancouver was 800,000. Today, the bridge serves more than 800,000 vehicles in a single week.
The new bridge will better serve the region's 2.2 million people – and the additional one million people expected here over the next 30 years, according to the project website, www.pmh1project.com
"We understand a lot of people really want the project to be completed," Ryan said.
She encouraged local residents to visit the project website for updates and to subscribe to receive traffic pattern change information.