How Is the Counterflow Lane on the Lions Gate Bridge Controlled?
Someone has to make sure we all make it off that bridge alive.
October 18, 2016
The Guinness family built the bridge in 1938 (looks like drinking and driving do mix sometimes!) and sold it to the province in 1955 with just two lanes: one that went north and one that went south. Practical for getting from one side of the bridge to the other, yes, but severely lacking in the thrill department. Without a counterflow lane, how was Joe Commuter supposed to get that sweet, sweet adrenaline rush and wash of terror that accompanies a directional light change?
Thankfully, a few years later, they introduced a third, undirected centre lane for passing (allegedly nicknamed the “suicide lane”) and then (presumably after hearing said nickname) upgraded to a system designed, interestingly enough, to avoid head-on collisions.
The reality is that you aren’t at the mercy of a heartless computer program. An operator (likely with a degree in public safety communication) is on shift 24-7, watching from a control room in Coquitlam with the help of 20-plus cameras, and they’re in charge of making sure we all make it off that bridge alive. With no complications, switching from a north to southbound lane can happen in five minutes (a flashing yellow for 30 seconds, solid yellow for another minute and a half and then red for three more), but if your merging game is poor, you’ll get some grace. In fact, if you’re a very special breed of monster, you could keep driving in that centre lane for as long as you like*—the controller isn’t ever going to change the lane’s direction if someone’s still in there. Sorry for the buzzkill, adrenaline junkies.
*Please, please don’t do this: though you may not get hit by another car, you could be blocking passage for emergency vehicles.