The Golden Ears Bridge crosses the Fraser River and connects the communities of Langley and Maple Ridge in British Columbia. The bridge’s construction also involved building an elevation above 133b Avenue to the north and a tunnel beneath Highway 1 to the south. The general contractor was Golden Crossing Group (GCG), a P3 consortium of companies CH2M Hill and Bilfinger Berger that formed to manage the project’s complexities.
In 2006, before the general’s office even had furniture, we met with them to talk about their traffic control needs. GCG was impressed with our work and made us the traffic engineer of record for this project. From drafting and lane closures to flagging and installation, all of our services were available. Our part of the project took $3 million and three years to complete.
Our traffic management plans for this project were massive. They consisted of both strategy and engineered drawings to indicate how we would manage traffic. We also designed signal timing drawings for temporary intersections. Our engineer planned these drawings so traffic wouldn’t back up. We provided these drawings to the Township of Langley, and they adjusted their lights accordingly.
Every time the project interrupted traffic, we created a plan. Minor flagging operation didn’t need much, but because we made long-term changes to the function of the road, we had to accommodate the effects on traffic with our drawings. As a result, the plan was a living document that we kept adding to as the project went on. By the time the bridge opened, our plan had enough paper to fill our boardroom from top to bottom.
The project involved construction on both sides of the river. Because we couldn’t easily move back and forth, we needed two supervisors to coordinate construction and traffic control. We talked to them constantly to coordinate our operations with those of the construction team. One of our team members also attended their regular meetings to understand the plan for that week, even though it was likely to change.
If a road needed to be closed, our dispatchers worked with the coordinators to make sure the crews had all the materials they needed. This was convenient for GCG, as they didn’t have to worry about their day-to-day traffic operations and could focus on construction instead.
We provided most of the flagging services needed for the project. This was a challenge because the general’s needs were always changing. One day they might need two flag people, and another they might need 20. It was difficult to have enough part-time people on hand, so we partnered with other traffic control companies and managed their staff.
We did high-profile lane closures on Highway 1 while the construction crews were putting in the tunnel. Our teams also managed road closures and rolling closures at night from Highway 15 to Highway 7.
We rented products like message boards, arrow boards, and trailers for the full length of the project. Normally we would sell items for a project this long, but GCG was from Germany and didn’t want to bring everything home with them afterwards. We brought items to the Langley and Maple Ridge sides of the project. Because there was no bridge yet, we regularly used the Albion Ferry to cross the Fraser with our inventory in tow.
We also manufactured and installed extruded overhead guide signs, as well as ground mounts and shoulder mounts for 2,500 final footprint signs. We hydrovacced the ground holes, used a crane truck to install a Nabijack base and a round post, and bolted each sign in place. Because some signs were damaged during landscaping or by other crews, we also had some repairs to do at the end.
This project helped us create new systems for the way we track and do installations. Each sign had to be placed in a specific spot, so we took measurements and marked where each sign needed to go. We then had to fill out a sheet for the sign’s location. We’re still using that system today at our Langley branch because the general liked the information they were getting.
We made GCG’s lives easier and the project turn out better by being a one-stop shop for all their temporary traffic needs. There were some challenges along the way, just as with any job that involves people. Overall, though, we were safe, were timely, and met their needs as best as we could.
We’re very proud of the fact that there were no deaths involved with this project. Normally there’s at least one, especially for a bridge this size. We, however, don’t believe that even one life is an acceptable cost. While we can’t take credit for what the other crews were doing, we did our part by preventing any major car accidents and traffic fatalities.
Every major project is a learning experience with its own separate challenges. This was the largest project we’ve ever completed in British Columbia. It helped our Langley branch and its rental fleet grow during those three years, and we’re continuing to grow as a result.