Alex Fraser Bridge improvements targeting traffic congestion and ice removal

FILE PHOTO: Crews have been de-icing the Alex Fraser bridge in anticipation of snow on Dec. 8, 2016. Ministry of Transportation

The province is hoping two new projects for the Alex Fraser Bridge will take a bite out of rush-hour queues and make wintertime commutes a little easier.

The projects, which went out for tender Wednesday, include installing a cable collar system for ice removal and adding an additional lane with a movable barrier to the bridge.

“Last winter, snow and ice on the Alex Fraser Bridge’s cables forced several closures, which inconvenienced thousands of commuters. Adding a cable collar system to clear snow will improve the reliability of the bridge,” Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena said in a statement.

“As well, adding an additional lane with a movable barrier to the bridge will reduce rush-hour queues and save commuters valuable time each day.”

WATCH: Demonstration of new ‘movable lane’ proposed for the Alex Fraser Bridge

The tender for the cable collar system, which is estimated to cost $5 million, closes in mid-September and a new system is expected to be in place on the Alex Fraser Bridge by the end of the year.

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The system will be similar to the one used to remove snow and ice from the Port Mann Bridge’s cables but it will be operated manually.

READ MORE: Ice bomb prevention measures being put in place on Alex Fraser and Port Mann bridges

The collars were installed on the Port Mann Bridge in December 2013 when ICBC paid out $400,000 worth of glass claims after vehicles were struck by falling ice bombs.

In December 2016, Global News captured some exclusive footage of ice falling from the cables on the Alex Fraser, narrowly missing the cars travelling below. The span had to be closed twice during the snowy weather late last year due to the shards of ice falling below.

The same contract will include initial work on the Alex Fraser Bridge to improve traffic flow, which includes replacing the existing fixed median barrier with a temporary concrete median barrier to support expanding the number of travel lanes on the bridge to seven.

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As part of that project, the ministry is also in the process of getting a movable barrier system, including barrier transfer machines. The additional work needed to complete the project will be tendered this fall, with the new lane and movable barrier expected to be operational in the fall of 2018.

The project is estimated to cost $70 million with the federal government contributing $33 million to the capacity-improving project.

READ MORE: Annacis Island businesses vent as traffic gridlock worsens

“Traffic congestion infringes on the quality of life in our residential communities and restricts the lives of the thousands of workers in the Annacis Island and Tilbury business areas,” Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said in a statement.

“These improvements are positive steps and demonstrate leadership towards finding a solution. We must continue to work together to promote dialogue about future transportation planning, leading to action on infrastructure improvements that benefit the entire region.”

The cable collar system is a separate project and is funded entirely by the province of B.C.

~ with files from Amy Judd

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