New Mountain Highway overpass gets congested debut

It’s been a bumpy ride for the new Mountain Highway overpass.

The first component of the $198-million Lower Lynn interchange project opened on Saturday but people quickly found traffic backed up as far as Kirkstone Road.

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Lynn Valley resident Scott Munro said he’s used the new overpass both in his car and on his bike, “neither of which were good.”

On Saturday afternoon, he drove southbound over the new overpass – or at least tried to.

“I’ve lived in Lynn Vallley for 10 years and I’ve never seen Mountain Highway backed up like it was,” he said.

Munro attributed the quagmire to the signal on Keith Road where Mountain Highway now meets Brooksbank Avenue. The light doesn’t give enough time for left-turners to get through, and the left turn lane isn’t long enough to accommodate the vehicles lining up, he said.

“It took probably five or six or seven cycles for me to get through the intersection,” Munro said.

Riding his bike on the new infrastructure was “dreadful,” he added, with no separation from vehicles or even painted lanes. Crossing north from Brooksbank is also difficult because the curb lane is also the right turn lane for vehicle traffic. 

“It was not accommodating whatsoever,” I think much more needs to be done in terms of considering the needs of all road users – in particular those who are cycling.”

The new overpass is opening just as the District of North Vancouver has torn up a section of Mountain Highway between Arborlynn Drive and 14th Street. TransLink has been getting an earful from some of its passengers with delays of up to 30 minutes being reported on the 209, 210, 255 and 227 routes, according to the transit authority.

Munro said he wasn’t expecting any quick-fixes for the North Shore’s traffic, but he said he thought the overpass designers would have taken these things into account already.

“I fully understand this is just part of the project. We’re not seeing the full interchange in its final operating state … but it just seems they seemed to have opened this without some basic things being done correctly.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure acknowledged the problems and pledged to make adjustments.

“Reducing traffic impacts is one of our top priorities,” the statement read. “The ministry understands that drivers on the North Shore have been dealing with traffic interruptions resulting from construction in the Lower Lynn area for several years. … Based on observations and data collected this past weekend, further changes are being made to reduce the traffic congestion for southbound drivers on Mountain Highway. This includes changes to the line markings and signal timing at the Brooksbank Avenue and Keith Road intersection.”

The District of North Vancouver has been getting eight to 10 complaints a day since the new overpass opened, according to district spokeswoman Catherine Haboly. But the traffic signal at Keith Road is controlled by the City of North Vancouver.

City spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley said the municipal staff are already making tweaks to the signals but, she added, the area is going to be in high demand for a while yet.

“To help improve traffic movement through the intersection, we have adjusted the signal timing. We are monitoring the situation and will continue to adjust signal timing as needed to balance traffic flow through the area and to minimize backups in all directions,” she said. “For the next couple of years, until later phases of the ministry’s project are complete, this intersection will be doing double duty functioning as both a north-south, east-west corridor. Once the twinning of the Lynn Creek Bridge is complete, traffic patterns will shift and the volume through this intersection will decrease.”

Demolition of the old overpass, which will require nighttime closures of Highway 1, will begin soon, according to the ministry.

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