North Vancouver drivers who have reason to travel across the Second Narrows Bridge in the afternoon know all about it. Otherwise it seems to be a secret. You never hear anyone talk about it. North Vancouver residents are a patient and polite people, it would appear, but a traffic crisis is on its way.
The “it” referred to is the traffic situation on the Upper Levels highway between 2 p.m. and 6.30. pm, otherwise known as gridlock. During that four-hour period, it can take as long as two hours to cross the bridge. Traffic is routinely backed up all the way to West Vancouver. If there is a fender bender, plan much longer. If there is a crash on the Lions Gate Bridge, all traffic to and from Vancouver comes to a halt. According to the North Vancouver RCMP, this is a disaster waiting to happen. If Lions Gate Hospital is not able to deal with a medical crisis, patients will need to be airlifted by helicopter to Vancouver General Hospital. Crossing the Second Narrows Bridge is any sort of vehicle, even an ambulance, is not an option.
The cause of this gridlock is easy to discover. You can ask the police, or ask at any constructions sites, or cafes and restaurants that serve take-out food, or ask the drivers stuck in traffic on the “freeway.” Gridlock is being caused by the thousands of construction workers commuting to the north shore from places like Surrey. While the jobs are here, the workers can’t afford to live here, even if there were units available, which there aren’t. Estimates of the number of vehicles vary, but there are hundreds of construction projects ongoing and thousands of workers commuting to the shore from Monday to Friday.
For instance, at the former Griffin Recreation Centre (soon to be named something else), the site is empty before 3 pm. Supervisory staff agrees that most workers are forced to leave early because of the long commute. The construction is supposedly scheduled to be complete this fall, but no work is being done between the hours of 3 pm and 7 pm.
It is impossible to obtain an exact figure of workers and the number of units being constructed on the north shore, but with a village of new towers to be built at corner of Capilano and Marine, a cluster at the north end of the Second Narrows, new towers coming along in Lower Lonsdale and Lonsdale and 13th, and maybe towers at Park Royal, plus over a thousand new homes being built, it is likely there may be as many as 50,000 new cars joining the cavalcade when all the housing is completed.
The horrendous traffic congestion sure to result will no doubt stimulate new talk about a “third crossing,” a suggestion that has been booted back and forth since the 1970s. The addition of a third Seabus is not likely to alleviate the problem. Meanwhile, the RCMP hopes that no emergency situation evolves that requires immediate police or medical action. It is not going to happen.
By Staff Writer