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Traffic chaos in Delta caused by poor signage: engineer

The South Fraser Perimeter Road was almost bare on Monday morning even as Highway 17A was a parking lot from the Highway 99 overpass to Tsawwassen. - Adrian MacNair photo
The South Fraser Perimeter Road was almost bare on Monday morning even as Highway 17A was a parking lot from the Highway 99 overpass to Tsawwassen.
— image credit: Adrian MacNair photo

Delta's top engineer blamed traffic woes in South Delta yesterday on poor signage in advance of the shutdown of Highway 17A to complete construction for the new South Fraser Perimeter Road project.

"I wish the story was a fairytale but it's probably more of a Grimm's nursery tale," joked Steven Lan at Monday's council meeting, adding there were significant problems.

A lack of signage for drivers coming through the George Massey Tunnel led to Tsawwassen and ferry-bound travellers taking Highway 17A instead of the new South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR). The problem was that road crews had closed 17A at Deltaport Way, and were diverting traffic westbound to Arthur Drive.

The result was a line of traffic which extended from 56th Street northbound to 28th Avenue, up Arthur Drive to Ladner, as well as east along Deltaport Way, and all the way north to Highway 99.

The SFPR, meanwhile, was relatively bare for those few drivers who managed to locate the exit off Highway 99 to enjoy a smooth ride to Tsawwassen.

The province told Delta's engineering staff last week that a section of 17A would need to be closed for close to five days to complete construction on the route prior to officially opening the SFPR.

"They looked at many different ways of undertaking that construction and they found the only way to do it was to actually completely close the highway," said Lan, adding staff reviewed the plan and highlighted the need to continue to move traffic smoothly.

"Certainly, the end result today was it did not work well."

Lan said the province planned to implement clearer signage overnight Monday and expects to see traffic improvement for the rest of the week.

"I think there were some folks that were headed for the ferry that don't normally come out that often were just confused about 17A versus 17, so overnight our contractor changed up a bunch of signs," said Geoff Freer, who is heading up the Gateway Project.

A sign telling drivers to take exit 28 after leaving the Massey Tunnel has since been removed and a digital sign now advises them on getting to the SFPR to access Tsawwassen and BC Ferries.

Freer said this is the stage of the project where road crews are trying to make the final connections between the new highway and existing roads, which required the detour.

Provincial road crews are focusing on fixing the southbound portion of Highway 17A over the next couple of days to re-open that section and alleviate some of the traffic congestion.

Normal traffic patterns both north and southbound on Highway 17A are expected to be seen by Friday, while the SFPR is still slated to open before Christmas. The SFPR will remain fully open after Friday between 28th Avenue and Highway 99.

When officially completed, the SFPR will take traffic from Tsawwassen, the ferries, and Deltaport northbound to either Highway 99 or all the way to the TransCanada highway. Those wishing to access the Village of Ladner can stay on Highway 17A, or take Arthur Drive.

Drivers wishing to access the latest information about road closures or traffic delays can visit the SFPR website at sfprconstruction.ca.

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