The first week of construction on the Point Ellice Bridge is going as planned, says city staff.
Commuters have faced massive congestion following the closure of the east-bound lane of the bridge on Bay Street since May 21. The closure will be in effect until October to accommodate infrastructural updates.
By the end of the week, however, congestion was slightly lifted.
“The first couple of days have been difficult for drivers, but we are seeing traffic patterns becoming more established and delays becoming reduced,” said Phillip Bellefontaine, City of Victoria assistant director, transportation. “People need to think about the routes they choose, and also the time of day they travel… it’s that predictability and certainty that we feel would have the biggest impact.”
Cinching this lane only leaves the Johnson Street Bridge as the direct alternative route to downtown Victoria, with a longer route down Tillicum Road also an option.
Travellers faced long lineups on Tuesday morning, which worsened when the Johnson Street Bridge was raised during peak traffic times, prompting people to turn to social media demanding for an alternating-lane system or more restrictions on marine traffic.
Been sitting here for 6 light cycles – Tyee and Esquimalt Rd. No movement. Trying to get onto Johnson St Bridge… oh! They closed the Bay st bridge and lifted the Johnson bridge in peak traffic time ! That was cool. #yyjtraffic pic.twitter.com/isiWfnZQU2
— Claire Sarginson (@ClaireSarginson) May 22, 2019
Bellefontaine said traffic options had been carefully considered prior to construction, and that the current method was the most easy to accomplish logistically as well as the most cost effective.
“It’s a very long bridge, so to introduce that alternating traffic you have to stop in one direction and wait for that traffic to clear,” he said. “What that results in is essentially no traffic is moving for a considerable period of time.”
Additionally, hiring flaggers every day for five months would escalate the cost of the large-scale $6.1 million project.
Alternatively, switching between east and west directions at the beginning and end of the day was also explored. However, after analyzing data Bellefontaine said that traffic wasn’t predictably tidal, and that people from both sides of the bridge travelled fairly equally throughout the day.
The @CityOfVictoria excuse that they CAN'T counterflow the single lane traffic due to the Bay St.Bridge closure is INSANE. Allow eastbound into the city from 6-9 then Westbound out of city the rest of the day. This is what any other normal engineering Dept would do… #yyjtraffic
— Glenn Letham (@gletham) May 22, 2019
“It would be very disruptive and very unpredictable for drivers,” Bellefontaine said. “While you could theoretically have very fixed times of the day, in reality as a driver we don’t plan our days that way.”
The City also already has an agreement in place with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority about avoiding lifting the Johnson Street Bridge between 7 a.m.-9 a.m. and 3 p.m.-5 p.m., but Bellefontaine said sometimes it’s unavoidable.
“There are occasions when that will happen. In a legal sense marine traffic has seniority… But, it’s very rare.”
The traffic pattern will therefore stay as is until construction wraps up in October.
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