When the new Port Mann Bridge starts collecting its coins in 2012 and motorists start paying to cross the Fraser River, traffic on the free road, the Lougheed Highway and Pitt River Bridge, should run as normal.
At least that’s what the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is saying after confirming no extra work is planned for the Lougheed Highway to accommodate westbound motorists from Abbotsford or Mission who may want to skirt the tolls on the Trans-Canada Highway.
“Mission Bridge/Lougheed Highway will be slow and time-consuming in comparison to Highway 1 or the South Fraser Perimeter Route. Given the obvious disadvantages of using this route, no significant additional traffic is expected on Lougheed Highway,” the ministry said last week.
For toll evaders, the South Fraser Perimeter Route, “will be considerably faster and more efficient that using the Mission Bridge and Lougheed Highway.”
Maple Ridge Coun. Cheryl Ashlie raised the during a recent visit by TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis and wanted to know if local roads will be crowded by motorists from the eastern Fraser Valley.
The department also expects that the new South Fraser Perimeter Road accessed at 176th Street and Hwy. 1, “with its limited number of access points and fewer traffic signals, will be the primary un-tolled access route for through-traffic seeking an alternative to the Port Mann Bridge.”
Ministry spokesperson Kate Trotter said in an e-mail that traffic modelling indicates “that the Golden Ears Bridge-South Fraser Perimeter Road would be an attractive route from the Maple Ridge area to … Vancouver airport and the Tsawwassen ferry terminal because of the significant travel time savings.”
Meanwhile work on the two-kilometre twinning stretch of the Lougheed Highway, just west of Mission, will be done by November.
The project cost $23 million and consisted of three phases, rebuilding the Silverdale Bridge, widening the highway and building the Nelson Road intersection. The bridge is designed to withstand a one-in-200-year flood.
The project needed approval by the Canadian Environmental Agency as the works took place in the Silverdale Creek wetland area, which is protected under the Navigable Waters Protection and Fisheries Act.
Other issues involved having to infill small sections of the creek to accommodate the widening and bridge construction. All these had to be reviewed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for approvals.