New separated lanes go into effect Jan. 30 on Highway 1 westbound approaching the Port Mann Bridge in what’s being billed as a sneak peek at the traffic pattern that will be in place when all 10 lanes open up across the bridge later this spring.
Motorists heading west in Surrey will find the freeway splits before 152 Street into two streams.
There will be three lanes to the left, including the HOV lane, and two lanes to the right, signed for traffic exiting to Coquitlam.
“It’s a preview of what the highway is going to look like in its final configuration,” said Transportation Investment Corp. spokesman Greg Johhnson.
Crews need the room created by the new separation to set up new local connection lanes that are supposed to carry the one-third of bridge traffic that goes directly between Surrey and Coquitlam.
Separating those local lanes from the other through lanes is expected to mean fewer problems merging with freeway traffic.
Under the temporary configuration, the separated lanes will all rejoin just before the bridge itself.
But the split in traffic flow before 152 Street will be permanent and officials want drivers to get used to deciding which stream to take.
“We want to inform drivers that this is happening, that they’re going to have to make a decision when they reach the 152 Street interchange,” Johnson said.
Separated lanes are expected to discourage weaving and other unsafe lane changes on the bridge deck.
A similar lane split will go into effect on the eastbound approach to the bridge this spring.
One consideration for some drivers will be getting the 25 per cent HOV lane discount on tolls.
Coquitlam-bound vehicles that take the right lanes after the split won’t be in position to get the HOV discount when they pass under the electronic tolling sensors.
But Johnson said HOV users headed west for Coquitlam can still stay in the left-most HOV lane until they’re past the tolling gantry and then change lanes on the bridge deck in time to make their exit.
Westbound traffic coming up 152 Street that want the HOV discount need to instead use the HOV on-ramp at 156 Street.
The bridge’s 10 lanes should all be open, with the local connection lanes in operation, by late spring or early summer.
Some work will continue after that, Johnson said, but will mainly be to finish the project’s multiuser path.
Asked if the permanent lane separations will restrict the ability of vehicles to flow around accidents when they happen, Johnson said the form and operation of the barriers are still being finalized.