Major construction work will begin soon on the Burrard Street Bridge, taking one traffic lane away from drivers to make more room for cyclists and pedestrians.

Crews will also be installing a suicide-prevention barrier on the crossing, making safety improvements at the intersection of Burrard Street and Pacific Boulevard, and performing upgrades that stretch all the way to 17th Avenue.

The whole project is expected to take 18 months, and will most likely cause some headaches for drivers along the way.

“It’s going to be a challenge getting across that bridge,” city councillor George Affleck said.

One of the three northbound lanes will be converted into a bike lane, allowing the east sidewalk – which is currently for cyclists only – to be given back to pedestrians.

Drivers concerned about traffic backups during construction are advised to use the Cambie or Granville bridges as alternatives.

Planners don’t expect there to be much impact to traffic when the project is finished, however, because crews are also adding a second lane channeling northbound traffic onto Pacific Boulevard, to prevent bottlenecking.

“It’s not the main span of the bridge that controls the flow of traffic. Traffic is controlled by the intersections, always,” said Jerry Dobrovolny, manager of engineering for the city.

The suicide prevention barrier, which raised concerns among heritage advocates when it was announced, will be made up of fencing spaced six inches apart across the entire span.

Dobrovolny said staff are confident the new design will be compatible with the bridge’s heritage style, but not everyone is on board.

“I’m still concerned that it will negatively impact the look of the bridge,” Affleck said.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Scott Hurst