Tri-Cities residents and commuters should brace themselves for some major changes and construction delays in the coming weeks during the final push for the Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project.
The project is entering a "critical juncture" as work crews begin connecting the nearly complete bridge with the various approaches and off ramps in the Cape Horn Interchange in South Coquitlam.
"This area is the most complicated, complex and confined section of the entire project," said Mike Proudfoot, CEO of the province's Transportation Investment Corp., at a news conference Wednesday. "The work here at the Cape Horn Interchange is truly a megaproject within the megaproject."
Among the big changes due in the coming weeks, Lougheed Highway eastbound will be re-routed over an overpass just past Schoolhouse Street and run along the south side of Highway 1 until it rejoins Lougheed via an underpass before United Boulevard. That change goes into effect on Sept. 16. Moving Lougheed, along with sewers, power lines, gas lines and rail tracks, was needed to make room for a wider Highway 1.
"This work is important because the new bridge alone will not solve our congestion problems. The major highway and interchange improvements required on both sides of the bridge are necessary and critical to cutting the travel times," Proudfoot said.
Two days later, the new Port Mann Bridge will see its first use as three eastbound lanes will open into Surrey.
On Sept. 19, the bridge will be connected with a new overpass to link westbound Highway 1 traffic directly onto eastbound Lougheed.
Over the weekend of Sept. 22 and 23, crews are scheduled
to finish a new overpass linking westbound Lougheed to eastbound Highway 1. The "engineering marvel" will result in choked off bridge traffic for drivers while work is done. The bridge will be reduced to one lane in either direction for portions of the weekend and the majority of the Cape Horn Interchange will be shut down and traffic detoured to the Brunette Interchange.
The bridge will again be cut down to single lanes in either direction on Sept 29 and 30 while workers demolish the old onramp.
"We're asking drivers to avoid the highway and the bridge during these periods and choose alternate routes," Proudfoot said.
The new bridge is expected to have eight lanes open for traffic on schedule in December, with two more lanes to follow in 2013.
The remainder of the work to clean up the rat's nest that has become of South Coquitlam's roads will be completed throughout the 2013 construction season, Proudfoot said.
"We know there is some inconvenience and we apolo-gize for that but we're asking everyone to just hang in there for a few more months," he said. "A faster Port Mann Bridge is coming."