Bridge repairs likely to bring traffic delays in Jasper park

Bridge repairs likely to bring traffic delays in Jasper park

Visitors venturing out to Jasper National Park this season may find longer traffic delays than usual.

That's because three bridges east of the Jasper townsite on Highway 16 — and one west of town — are getting an overhaul this year.

Jasper National Park spokesperson Joseph Zebrowski said traffic on the Snaring River Bridge, about 16 kilometres east of Jasper, and Athabasca East Bridge, about 21 kilometres east of Jasper, will be reduced to a single alternating lane.

Fiddle River Bridge, just inside the park's East Gate on Highway 16, is also under construction but two-way traffic is still allowed through. 

About 15 kilometres west of the Jasper townsite, Clairvaux Creek Bridge is also down to a single alternating lane over the summer while it gets a facelift.

"We work with the contractors to ensure the delays are usually 20 minutes or less," Zebrowski told CBC News Thursday.

"It's hard to predict because it will depend on the nature of the work being done at the time, at a particular bridge," he said, explaining that most of the work involves replacing decks and installing safety rails.

He said the construction, which is part of the federal infrastructure fund, was scheduled before the current government announced it would give people free park passes in celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, which is expected to increase the number of visitors to the park this year.

Pattie Pavlov with the Jasper Chamber of Commerce said she drove through the construction the other day and it wasn't that bad.

"I had a bit of a delay, but I can't honestly say it was horrific in any way, shape or form," she said. 

Volumes lowest in morning, evening

Pavlov said she waited in line for about 10-15 minutes.

"It's a part of what you have to go through," she said. "People expect their national park roads to be in good condition and we have a fine window in which to do that."

The good news is that work on bridges will be suspended during long weekends in spring and summer, starting with the May long weekend.

"We've also reduced the amount of work we do at certain points in the summer," Zebrowski noted. "For example, in June and July, which are the busiest months, we're not doing the paving and rock scaling to ensure there's a better flow of traffic."

Pavlov said the number of tourists visiting the park is up over last year. She said travellers should expect it to be busy and plan ahead.

"I certainly discourage individuals from getting in their car and saying, 'Oh we'll worry about where we're going to sleep when we get there.' "

Parks Canada recommends travelling early in the day or in the evening when traffic volumes are lower.