The Highway 91/17 Upgrade Project is a series of road and highway upgrades that are part of a larger upgrade project in Delta, BC.

Jody Deane is the Executive Project Director, Highway 91/17 Upgrade Project for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. It’s her responsibility to ensure that Pacific Gateway Constructors General Partnership, the Design-Builder, implements the project as the Ministry intended – safely, efficiently, on time and on budget – and that effective communication with road users and project neighbours is maintained through the life of the project.

Deane explains the key features of the upgrade:

• At the Highway 91 and Nordel Way interchange, upgraded ramps to and from Delta, improved acceleration and deceleration lanes, and additional through-lanes for Nordel Way traffic crossing over Highway 91;

• At the Highway 91 Connector and Nordel Way intersection, new direct access roads and additional turning lanes to remove one signal light and improve all movements – including significantly improved access to/from the Nordel Way commercial vehicle inspection station and parking area; and

• At the Highway 17 and Highway 91 Connector (Sunbury), a new interchange and improvements to the River Road connection to replace the existing signalized intersection and eliminate an at-grade rail crossing access to the Highway.

The project’s overall objective is to improve the operation of existing roads from a safety and efficiency perspective. Upgrades to access and egress ramps and intersections, removing signalized intersections, improving sight lines and providing additional lanes, where needed, will enhance safety. Improved efficiency will decrease travel time and reliability through Delta for both the travelling public and for goods movers, thereby supporting community and economic development. These changes support the Ministry’s long-term plan to increase access and improve traffic flow along BC’s trade corridors.

A project of this scope and complexity brings inherent challenges. Deane explains that effective traffic management is key to success. “It is crucial to minimize disruption and keep traffic moving around the project site. Highways 91, 91C, 17 and River Road are all important and busy routes; this means lots of planning and coordination with key stakeholders and other projects in the area. Providing advance notice of travel pattern changes and ensuring appropriate mitigation measures are in place minimize potential impacts and effectively manage traffic.”

An important consideration is that the project is situated between two very sensitive environmental features: the Fraser River and Burns Bog. In addition to a stringent environmental protection program, this brings the challenge of soft ground conditions, which the Design-Builder is responding to by employing a number of ground improvement techniques.

Construction began in the spring of 2020. To date, the pandemic has had no impact on the project’s anticipated completion in the fall of 2022. Nearing the end of the first year of construction, Deane is pleased to say that the team’s focus on safety and effective traffic management has been a highlight. “This speaks to how we plan for this project to continue, and how we’ll measure success on completion. I’m proud of how the project team has adapted in response to the challenge of COVID-19, safely managing an active construction area that spans several major highways.”

Public information sessions, meetings with key stakeholder groups, and engagement with Indigenous communities began in 2017; engagement will continue throughout the life of the project. Feedback from those stakeholders, together with highway users, local residents and businesses confirms broad-based support for improving safety and reliability across the area, and a desire to see the project move forward on pace.

Once construction commenced, quarterly meetings between the Design-Builder and a multi-stakeholder Traffic Advisory Committee – comprising representatives from local governments, emergency responders, municipal staff, goods movers, TransLink and Coast Mountain Bus Company – began. The Committee’s input on draft traffic management plans and construction communications tactics with road users help to ensure traffic keeps moving.

While construction is underway, Deane “appreciates the patience of our neighbours and road users in the area, and we will continue to do our best to keep everyone informed as the project progresses.”

Key project stakeholders include the travelling public, commercial goods movers, adjacent business owners and tenants, local residents, emergency responders, special interest groups, the City of Delta and other levels of government, and the project funding partners.

Funding partners for the Highway 91/17 and Deltaport Way components of the project include the Province ($87.5M), the New Building Canada Fund’s National Infrastructure component ($81.6M) and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority ($87.5M). The balance – for the recently completed 27B Avenue element – is funded by Tsawwassen First Nation ($3.5M). This partnership recognizes the fundamental importance of this area to national trade.

The project area is an important trade corridor that connects port facilities to the Lower Mainland and drives economic benefits to the surrounding communities. The improvements will provide better access to the Nordel commercial vehicle inspection facility, including a dedicated lane to separate trucks from local traffic. This will also enable expanded hours of operation. Further, access to a new Canadian Border Services Agency container screening facility near Delta port will create local jobs and improve trade safety and security. And, over the life of the project, approximately 745 direct construction jobs will be created.

Additional benefits realized during project delivery include opportunities for Indigenous peoples and other traditionally underrepresented groups in the skilled workforce, apprenticeship opportunities, and training and development opportunities and initiatives. The Design-Builder is required to incorporate access to these opportunities, particularly for local workers and businesses.

When complete the Highway 91/17 Upgrade Project will enhance safety and better manage the interface between industrial, regional and local traffic, all of which continue to grow in this area of the region.

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