Ministry to use chopper as temporary solution for snow clearing on Alex Fraser Bridge

In order to minimize closures due to falling "ice bombs," a heavy-lift helicopter will be used to blow the snow off the bridge's cables.

With more snow in the forecast for this weekend, government engineers have settled on a novel plan to minimize further weather-related closures of the Alex Fraser Bridge: using a helicopter to blow the snow away.

According to a press release issued Friday afternoon by B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, in the event that snow and ice accumulates and engineers determine there is a risk to public safety, a heavy-lift helicopter will be deployed whose rotors will create strong blasts of wind that will blow the snow accumulations off of the cables.

The helicopter is only a temporary solution as the ministry works on developing a longer-term solution.

Last week, the province’s engineers had to close the Alex Fraser Bridge two times due to snow and ice falling from the bridge’s cables. Both times, the bridge was closed for over four hours, delaying motorists and adding congestion to other routes.

It’s estimated using a helicopter to blow the snow off the cables should reduce the inconvenience by cutting closure times to about two or three hours while the work is being done to clear the snow.

The press release says a combination of factors led to the Alex Fraser Bridge closures on Saturday, Dec. 10, and on Monday. Dec. 12.

First, a large amount of snow accumulated on the cables, then the cycling of temperatures and wind direction increased the likelihood of shedding snow and ice. Most years, there is very little snow or the snow blows off without accumulating.

Meanwhile on the Port Mann Bridge, crews have been performing multiple snow-clearing drops on the bridge’s 288 cables and traffic has been flowing safely and smoothly on this bridge as a result. Over the weekend, crews will continue these snow-clearing drops as necessary.

Metro Vancouver drivers are reminded to expect winter weather conditions on the roads, to drive carefully, to increase following distance to at least four seconds, and to check drivebc.ca for regular updates on their routes.

The ministry will also continue to keep the driving public informed of any traffic control activities via Twitter, DriveBC and digital message signs.

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