Bridge construction, traffic pattern changes and heavy vehicle volumes caused ferry delays and under-capacity sailings from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale during the long weekend, which left many customers confused and upset.
Between Friday, Aug. 1, and Monday, Aug. 4, a total of 14 sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Langdale left 10 minutes or more late, BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said.
“There were also three short-loaded sailings and they all occurred on Friday from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale. We just couldn’t get the traffic from the shoulder of the highway to the booth in a timely manner,” Marshall explained.
The majority of problems occurred on Friday and were attributed to the Nelson Creek Bridge construction project.
Corrine Storey, BC Ferries vice president of customer service, said the construction left just two lanes available approaching Horseshoe Bay on Hwy. 1 where vehicles had to be separated. Ferry customers were supposed to pull into the right lane and wait to be given a numbered ticket, while vehicles heading to Squamish had to be separated and sent on their way.
“They were directing people and people were given cards with numbers on them so they were ensured that everybody stayed in order, because we didn’t want any lane jumpers,” Storey said. “So if you didn’t get into the lane … and didn’t follow direction or somehow ended up without a ticket, you’d have to go back into the queue.”
Getting vehicles through the queue and into the ferry terminal was slow at best and BC Ferries made the call to send three vessels out on time that afternoon, rather than wait for more customers to make it to the terminal and board the boat.
Then at 7:55 p.m. the ferry corporation put an extra sailing on to pick up passengers left behind earlier in the day.
“I believe we did the very best we could. There’s always room to improve, I’m sure, and I apologize for any inconvenience that any of the customers experienced, but it was high volume,” Storey said. “It was just a really, really busy weekend.”
She said BC Ferries and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) anticipated the high vehicle volumes and did what they could to prepare, including having West Vancouver Police and contracted flaggers on scene to help out, as well as warning signs posted.
“There were signs that said slow down flagger ahead, ferry line-up ahead, prepare to stop. There was an overpass stating congestion, and Langdale Ferry use shoulder, so that’s four signs plus West Vancouver Police and traffic control, so actually six places where people should have been cautious to look for what was going on,” Storey said.
Travellers took to social media and sent in several letters to the editor (see page 9) to vent their frustrations.
Some chastised MOTI for not stopping their work and opening the bridge over the long weekend to help alleviate ferry traffic congestion, but MOTI media relations person Trish Rorison said it wasn’t safe.
“It was not possible to open all five lanes because portions of the bridge deck are being removed as part of the construction and therefore not useable,” she explained.
“Two lanes have been maintained in each direction throughout the construction zone with occasional reductions to one lane in each direction to accommodate night work.”
Work started on the $8.4 million Nelson Creek Bridge project in the spring and is expected to wrap up in early December.
Once complete, the bridge will be able to withstand a large earthquake, will feature a new bridge deck and will have an extended lifespan.
MOTI and BC Ferries intend to review their traffic management plan in light of the long weekend’s traffic troubles and make changes if necessary in the future.
© Coast Reporter