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Tunnel upgrade project just adds to Massey motorists’ woes

Delta South MLA Ian Paton said the bollards, or posts, keep motorists from changing lanes.
Delta South MLA Ian Paton said the bollards, or posts, keep motorists from changing lanes.

The plan is to upgrade the electronic reversible lane system in the George Massey Tunnel so the latest in electronics, LEDs and cameras keep the aging structure functioning as well as possible.

But the upgrade work that started on Monday (March 11) has been fraying the nerves of commuters who find themselves boxed in by bollards in lanes that keep motorists from making lane changes while jamming up traffic flow.

Delta South MLA Ian Paton said the bollards, or posts, keep motorists from changing lanes.

“I’ve driven the tunnel a couple of times now since they’ve put in these bollards that delineate each lane which has created a massive amount of grief and holdups for people,” he said.

People are complaining on social media saying it’s taking them 90 minutes to get through the tunnel.

“So one of the main things is it delineates that you have to stay in your lane. So now you can’t change lanes when you come out of the tunnel even,” Paton said.

For example, southbound drivers coming from Richmond who find themselves in the left lane exiting out of the tunnel can’t get into the right lane to get to the River Road exit for Ladner Village, he pointed out.

So people have to know they should be in the right lane if they want to exit, he added.

As well, if there’s an accident or break down, cars can’t even pull out and go around. “They’re pretty much trapped behind whatever the issue is,” he said.

The bollards extend for quite a ways on either approach of the tunnel keeping vehicles from changing lanes.

“That’s what causing a lot of grief for people. I don’t know exactly what’s causing it but somehow these yellow bollards are confusing people,” he said.

He’s talked to Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming about it and sent him photos and raised it in the legislature, explaining how frustrating it is for Delta motorists.

The existing electronic lane-control system will be offline for four weeks and will be replaced with temporary manual counterflow operations while the new, $10-million system is installed.

During peak commuting times, traffic-control crews are manually installing the counterflow using a combination of traffic-control vehicles, traffic-control personnel and cones and barriers.

The tunnel then will be closed overnight from April 4 through April 7, to complete the change to the new system, after which electronic counterflow will be back in operation.

Last Monday morning's traffic jams may be as bad as it gets however. That morning, March 12, a motor vehicle crash on the Alex Fraser Bridge diverted commuters to the George Massey Tunnel, adding to traffic volume.

And for the next two weeks, during spring break, traffic should be lighter, said the ministry in an email Friday.

Meanwhile, there will be more marking of lane boundaries and more signs directing drivers to the proper lanes for the exits they need to take once they leave the tunnel and more staff on hand to ensure traffic keeps rolling.

Transportation and Infrastructure staff have met with City of Delta staff and the minister updated Mayor George Harvie on Friday.

The bollards or temporary lane pickets or poles installed for safety during the manual counterflow, will be taken out once the new electronic counterflow is operating April 8.

"The ministry appreciates peoples’ patience while this important system upgrade is made."