Bridging the gap

Port Mann Bridge
Port Mann Bridge

As the manager of engineering services for Valley Traffic Systems across western Canada and sales in Alberta, Daryl Sarauer has a lot on his plate. He worked as an employee of the Kiewit/Flatiron Joint Venture working on important projects like the Port Mann Bridge. Presently he is transitioning to his new role with Valley Traffic Systems where he will lead a dynamic team of engineers, planners and designers whose first priority is keeping the driving public safe.

As motorists in Metro Vancouver know, the Port Mann Bridge used to be a source of daily frustration. Originally built in the 1950s, its designers couldn’t have anticipated the huge population growth in the region. For years, traffic congestion and incidents were a regular problem on that stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway as people who drove into or out of Vancouver can attest. When the reconstructed bridge opened in late 2012, the eight lanes moved traffic more easily than before. Getting people to the various exits on either side of the bridge was where Sarauer’s experience came in handy.

“It’s a very busy road and it’s important that we provide guidance to the motorists so they can get to their destinations,” said Sarauer. “During the construction and afterward, we have used GuidSIGN (CAD software from Transoft Solutions) and similar programs to help us provide guidance to the motorists. All the signs that are in place—whether they are existing or future signs, right up to the final signs—represent stages in the life cycle of the project. Along the way, sometimes you have to change or manipulate these signs. In doing so, you have to follow standards. Typically those are TAC (Transportation Association of Canada) guidelines. We would follow the same standard that the original sign was designed with, which keeps consistency for the motorist,” he continued.

Many sign designers experience the frustration of creating a sign in a CAD environment but having the final product look different. A key component of the sign design process is the production process and maintaining consistency from concept to installation on the highway. With a production facility on-site at their Valley Traffic Systems offices, that is no longer a concern for Sarauer and his designers.

“Having a production facility on-site will be beneficial for us because it allows us to conceptualize the design, design it, get it approved and have it manufactured and installed all in one facility,” Sarauer said.

“As professional engineers, we have to keep up with the latest advancements in the field,” said Sarauer. “The Canadian standard is the TAC manual and as the geometric roadway designs change, the signs change also. Roundabouts are something that’s come into play in the last number of years. It’s important in those applications (like roundabouts) where drivers didn’t have to account for them 10 or 20 years ago, today you are seeing those geometric designs implemented. Without proper signing through programs like GuidSIGN, you couldn’t maintain the safety of the motorists at a specific level.”