It was commuter chaos on the roads and highways around Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Tuesday as the region was hit with the first big snowstorm of the season.
Many drivers were forced to abandon their vehicles and try to make it home another way, while others were trapped in their cars for hours.
News Talk 980 CKNW radio host Jas Johal left downtown Vancouver at 8 p.m. Tuesday and arrived home at 4 a.m.
His commute at that time normally should take about 45 minutes.
“I still don’t know exactly what the problem was,” he said. “It looked like there was some kind of accident around the Steveston Overpass by the tunnel heading southbound on Highway 99.”
But he said the experience Tuesday night highlights the challenges people have moving around the Lower Mainland.
“Number one, it’s about traffic management, moving accidents out of the way as soon as possible,” Johal said.
“Number two, preparing for storms. It’s all well and good to say, ‘Well it snows here a couple of times a year, it’s good enough.’ It isn’t good enough because there’s people stalled there for eight hours. Not just people like myself but truck drivers who have small businesses to run. People are impacted.
“Number three, it once again shows that when it comes to our traffic choke points, we are not spending enough money on infrastructure.”
Johal said it’s clear the province and the cities need to spend more money to make the roads, bridges and transit systems more robust.
“We had a little bit of snow in a first-world country, in a G7 country, and we cannot handle it. What does that tell you when it comes to a big earthquake hitting the city?”
Mainroad Contracting has the B.C. government contract to keep the major highways and bridges clear out to 264 Street in Abbotsford.
The Alex Fraser Bridge was blocked by spun-out buses and vehicles, forcing people to sit in their cars with their engines off for up to nine hours.
Darren Ell with Mainroad Contracting said it was a tough night for crews and the snow arrived a little quicker than expected.
“Once there were two spun-out vehicles, there was a bus and truck early in the evening, just one after the other, our trucks, they can’t make it through that traffic as well,” he said. “Once it’s gridlocked our trucks are stuck in the same traffic so they had a hard time moving.”
Ell said the biggest issues were around the Alex Fraser Bridge, the Massey Tunnel, and the Queensborough Bridge, mostly due to spun-out vehicles.
“Some of our drivers had to get out and actually ask people to move,” he added. “So it was just congestion. A lot of vehicles stuck.”
Ell added they knew the weather was coming but drivers should plan ahead if they can by leaving work before the snow starts and having lots of patience if they do end up stuck.
Maple Ridge resident, Victor Perez was travelling from Surrey to Burnaby Tuesday evening.
He became stuck driving off the Pattullo Bridge in New Westminster.
“It was crazy,” he told Global News Wednesday morning.
He and a friend ended up abandoning the truck, and tried to take the SkyTrain. He said there were no buses available.
“We tried to catch the SkyTrain there but it was packed. There were people there, there were no buses so we start walking to the next station,” Perez said.
“But it was the same so we decided to walk all the way to Holdom.”
They left the truck at 6 p.m. and arrived home at 2 a.m., making it an eight-hour journey home.
In a statement Wednesday morning, TransLink said traffic jams in key areas throughout Metro Vancouver caused buses to return to depots late this morning.
As a result, service to many bus routes will be cancelled or reduced Wednesday, while buses that have been recovered late are inspected, maintained, and refueled.
-with files from Emily Lazatin