A new seventh lane on the Alex Fraser Bridge is expected to be open to drivers by the end of next month.
Work crews have finished adjusting the northbound lanes across the bridge to make room for the additional seventh lane, and will begin reconfiguring the southbound lanes and painting permanent lane lines after the B.C. Day long weekend.
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.
According a press release, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure expects the moveable barrier will be installed and all seven lanes — four southbound and three northbound — will be open to traffic by the end of August.
Once the moveable barrier is installed, zipper truck operators — who have been training extensively within the ministry’s maintenance yard — will begin practising transferring the barrier from lane to lane on the bridge deck at night, outside of peak hours.
The final step of the project involves installing and testing the intelligent transportation system before the counter-flow system (with the zipper truck in operation) goes live later this fall.
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.
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.