09/18/2012 12:20 EDT | Updated 11/18/2012 05:12 EST

3 lanes open on new Port Mann Bridge

Three eastbound lanes on Metro Vancouver's new Port Mann Bridge opened to drivers for the first time on Tuesday morning.

For now the bridge is free for vehicles but tolls are expected to be in place in December when the remainder of the lanes on the 10-lane bridge open.

The tolls will be half price for the first year for those who register early, the government announced last week.

Yesterday TransLink also announced it now has the cash to pay for a fleet of dedicated express buses that will cross the Port Mann Bridge in special HOV lanes.

The bridge connects Surrey and Coquitlam over the Fraser River east of Vancouver. The $3.3 billion project was launched in August 2008 to replace the old Port Mann bridge, which is currently congested for an average of 14 hours a day.

Once all 10 lanes are complete, the 850-metre span cable-stay structure will be the widest in North America — as well as one of the longest.

The old bridge will be removed once the new bridge is completed.

More construction delays expected

Project officials say, despite the opening of the new lanes on the bridge, construction on the bridge and the highway will result in significant delays in the coming weeks.

- "During the last two weekends of September there will be delays and congestion on Highway 1 and Lougheed Highway in the Cape Horn/Coquitlam area. Drivers are encouraged to avoid the highway and use alternate routes when possible."

- "September 21-24: Between Friday night and Sunday morning, lane closures will be implemented on Highway 1 at the Cape Horn Interchange.Between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, Highway 1 westbound will be reduced to one lane at the Cape Horn Interchange.These closures will cause delays on Highway 1. "

- "In addition, access to Highway 1 eastbound from Lougheed Highway westbound via the Cape Horn Interchange will be closed. Drivers on Lougheed Highway wishing to access Highway 1 eastbound must use the Brunette Avenue Interchange approximately three kilometres to the west."

- "September 28 - October 1: Highway 1 will be reduced to one lane in each direction between Friday evening and Sunday morning. This will cause long delays on Highway 1. Drivers are advised to avoid the highway and use alternate routes."