Alex Fraser Bridge cheaters in transportation minister’s crosshairs

Todd Stone vows action, Delta Mayor envisions gate, automatic tickets for drivers who take Annacis exit to beat bridge lineup

Cloverdale resident Heather Bannah works on Annacis Island and is one of the employees there who has seen commutes become much longer because of other motorists short-cutting through Annacis to get ahead of other drivers on the Alex Fraser Bridge.

B.C.’s transportation minister is vowing to find a solution to the problem of Alex Fraser Bridge motorists who use the Annacis Island exit as a short cut to bypass congestion on the bridge.

The tactic of southbound drivers from Richmond using the long Annacis off-ramp, turning around on the island and then rejoining Highway 91 has caused near-gridlock on Annacis Island, where businesses and employees have complained for months that their ability to move on or off the island is impeded.

“We understand and appreciate the frustrations of local area residents and of business owners,” Transportation Minister Todd Stone said.

“It is unacceptable for people to divert onto Annacis Island as a short cut, as this creates other problems, such as blocking accesses to local businesses.”

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He’s promising a working group will be formed with the Corporation of Delta and other stakeholders to find traffic solutions.

The ministry recently tested the use of pickets at the southbound merge onto Highway 91 from Annacis with the aim of creating some delay to deter those using the route as a short cut.

While the pickets helped reduce short cutters, Stone said local businesses feared the extra delay would hurt their businesses.

So the pickets have been removed and other options will be explored over the next few weeks.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson wants a fix fast before traffic worsens in September.

“People there are at the end of their tether,” said Jackson, who has been deluged with emails. “It’s taking anywhere from an hour to two hours just to get off the island in the afternoon. So something’s got to be done.”

Delta has already budgeted more police time to ticket drivers for violations such as illegal U-turns when they take the off-ramp, turn around – often aggressively butting ahead of Annacis workers – in order to get a faster route over the Alex Fraser.

More than 1,700 tickets have been issued since March.

Jackson is considering ideas such as issuing passes to Annacis workers and blocking or ticketing all other drivers who don’t have legitimate business on the island.

“We’re ready to put up a gate from 3 to 6 and if you don’t have a pass, you don’t get in,” she said,

“Maybe there’s a technology that can monitor these people and every person who goes through that’s not entitled to be on the island gets ticketed.”

Anxiety about traffic on Annacis increased last December when Stone announced the new Massey Bridge would be tolled. That prompted some Annacis workers to predict the island will become a much worse traffic nightmare once Highway 99 drivers who now take the Massey Tunnel try to use the free Alex Fraser instead.

“I think I will need to buy a boat,” Surrey resident and Annacis worker Chris McArdle told Black Press at the time. “Annacis Island is going to truly be traffic hell on Earth.”

A change.org petition demanding action began circulating in January, with Annacis workers denouncing aggressive driving by short cutters, causing “massive congestion” and “dangerous” road rage incidents.

Alex Fraser Bridge users are using the southbound Annacis Island exit to bypass congestion, but they’re paralyzing traffic on Cliveden Avenue.  image credit: Google Maps