Surrey/North Delta Leader

Alex Fraser Bridge drivers also hit by falling ice

Twitter user @Rodri9uez posted this photo of windshield damage from ice falling at the Alex Fraser Bridge Dec. 19. - Twitter / @Rodri9uez
Twitter user @Rodri9uez posted this photo of windshield damage from ice falling at the Alex Fraser Bridge Dec. 19.
— image credit: Twitter / @Rodri9uez

eavy snow and ice falling from the Alex Fraser Bridge on Dec. 19 also damaged an estimated 30 vehicles on the same day the phenomenon forced the four-hour closure of the new Port Mann Bridge.

Motorists on the Alex Fraser reported cracked windshields and roof damage after heavy chunks of ice or slush dropped on them.

ICBC spokesman Adam Grossman said there are now 240 damage claims from falling ice chunks at the Port Mann Bridge.

"It does seem to be a confluence of lots of different weather conditions coming into play," he said.

Provincial officials have blamed a rare combination of severe snow and a cycle of freezing and thawing weather for the Port Mann damage.

Although there had been past reports of falling ice at the Alex Fraser in 2005 and 2008, Grossman said last Wednesday's was the worst case to date.

He said ICBC staff will carefully review all claims to ensure drivers aren't fraudulently reporting damage from other causes.

In the case of Port Mann claims, TReO's records will be checked to verify the vehicle actually crossed the toll bridge on Dec. 19.

Unlike the Port Mann Bridge, where cables cross over top of traffic to the central support towers, the Alex Fraser's cables rise vertically beside the bridge decks.

They can still drop snow or ice buildup onto traffic if the wind blows in that direction.

But Transportation Investment Corp. CEO Mike Proudfoot said most of the ice that fell at the Alex Fraser built up and dropped from the horizontal concrete crossbeams that run above traffic between the support towers.

It happened despite the application of a deicing chemical by road maintenance contractor Mainroad Lower Mainland Contracting, which monitors snow and ice buildup on the Alex Fraser crossbeams via remote camera.

Proudfoot said the province is now carrying out "very detailed" weather monitoring to guard against a repeat of the falling ice hazard at the Port Mann.

Crews will conduct hourly reviews and assessments of the risk to motorists if the temperature drops below two degrees, he added.

"If there is any risk at all, the possibility is there for another closure of the bridge," Proudfoot said.

Engineers continue to look at various potential retrofits to keep snow and ice from building up on the new bridge, centrepiece of the $3.3-billion Port Mann/Highway 1 project.

Proudfoot said systems using heat, vibration de-icing or other mechanical methods are all under consideration by engineers with contractor Kiewit-Flatiron as well as from other consulting firms.

Transportation Minister Mary Polak has said the bridge's design was to ensure snow and ice did not pose a risk to traffic and the contractor will be held responsible for fixing the problem at no cost to taxpayers.

Mainroad is also developing a remote controlled deicing spray system for use at the Alex Fraser, according to the ministry.

Snow that fell from the Alex Fraser Bridge last Wednesday came mainly off the crossbeams between the main supports, not its cables.   Black Press file photo.

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