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

By Stacey McLachlan / Photo: Byron Eggenschwiler

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. 


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