CONSTRUCTION is set to begin on a $20-million project to improve the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossings notoriously narrow sidewalks.
Between September 2013 and March 2015, work crews will be cutting off the existing 1.2-metre wide sidewalks on the bridge and replacing them with roomier 2.5-metre paths plus adding in a three-metre high fence made from vertical galvanized steel posts, designed to prevent people from climbing over.
But before the bridge gets a whole lot better for cyclists and pedestrians, its going to get a whole lot worse.
Contractors will have to close the entire sidewalk, one side at a time, while they cut out the old pieces, install new steel joists and place new concrete slabs down on top.
There will also be nightly one- or two-lane closures from 11 p.m. or midnight to 5 a.m. while the work is in progress.
I think, with the times that we have, it shouldnt cause too many traffic delays. Thats why were doing most of the work at nighttime, said Jay Porter, project manager for the Ministry of Transportation. Obviously, theres going to be some noise when were doing the construction. We are cognizant of the North Vancouver side. Thats probably where the residents are fairly close. Were going to work with the contractor to try to minimize the noise as much as possible at night.
The change is welcomed by members of HUB, a Lower Mainland cycling advocacy group. But the bridge project is still incomplete, according to Fiona Walsh, HUB member and North Vancouver resident.
Its all very fine to say The bridge goes from this point to that point and thats all were concerned about right now but in fact, its the accesses that make the route complete or not and on either end, theres great difficulty, she said.
For that, the ministry should be working with the District of North Vancouver to plan for better access onto the bridge, Walsh said.
The designs also dont include a rub rail to prevent cyclists handlebars from getting snagged on the vertical bars of the new suicide-prevention fence, she said.
As for the difficulties expected in using the bridge with only one sidewalk, What else can you do? Walsh asked. Thats going to be the ugly time, but after that, when weve got two-and-a-half metres on one side, they can take their time on the other side.
It will be up to the contractor to decide which side of the bridge will be closed first. HUB had lobbied the ministry to set up a shuttle to help cyclists across while the sidewalk is closed, but, logistically, it made no sense, Porter said.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has been eyeing improvements to the bridge for years. In October 2012, a near-collision between cyclists on the bridge escalated into an assault and police investigation.