The seventh lane on the Alex Fraser Bridge is now open, but the counter-flow operation won’t be implemented until this fall, the provincial government says.
In a release from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Saturday (Sept. 14), it says the seventh lane has officially opened with four lanes heading southbound and three heading northbound.
Work is still continuing on the “intelligent transportation signs” for the counter-flow operation, according to the release. The ministry expects the zipper truck-barrier transfer system to be in place later this fall.
The “road zipper” uses a moveable barrier truck to shift the direction of the seventh lane.
A video posted by the ministry says operator training is happening now in preparation for the launch of the counter-flow lane.
The moveable barrier system will allow four lanes northbound and three southbound during the morning rush hour, and four lanes southbound the rest of the time.
The ministry previously said the seventh lane was expected to open by the end of August.
Throughout the summer, there have been nightly lane closures on the bridge for crews to reconfigure and paint the lanes to make room for the additional seventh lane.
Adding the extra lane requires narrowing the existing six lanes by about six inches and eliminating the shoulders. As a result, the speed limit has been lowered to 70 km/h to help people merge effectively and move safely across the bridge.
An average of 119,000 vehicles cross the Alex Fraser Bridge everyday, according to the ministry, with drivers experiencing lines more than three kilometres long during rush hour.
Once the counter-flow system is operational, the ministry expects drivers crossing the bridge will save 12 to 16 minutes during the southbound afternoon rush and about six minutes during the northbound morning rush.
The $70-million project, first announced on January 19, 2017, is being partially funded by the federal government — to the tune of $33,965,000 — through the provincial-territorial infrastructure component of its New Building Canada Fund. The province is picking up the tab for the remaining $36,125,000.
Also included in the bridge improvement project are 13 dynamic message signs placed strategically around Metro Vancouver to advise motorists in real time of delays on the four major Fraser River crossings: the Alex Fraser, Port Mann and Pattullo bridges and the George Massey Tunnel.
– with files from James Smith