Despite cold and heavy snow in the B.C. Interior, progress has continued on highway flood repairs to the point where the Coquihalla Highway can be reopened to all traffic, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said Tuesday.
A state of emergency to regulate highway traffic after devastating floods and landslides in mid-November expires at midnight Jan. 18, and traffic can join commercial trucks on the Coquihalla. Drivers should have emergency food and water, and expect the stretch from Hope to Merritt to take about 45 minutes longer than usual with two-lane bypass routes around the 20 damaged sections.
Work continues on another heavily damaged sites on Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon, including at Tank Hill where temporary rail and road access has been restored after a landslide sheared off 70 metres of highway. Highway 1 has been reopened to traffic from Kanaka Bar, south of Lytton, to Spences Bridge.
A temporary bridge has spanned another huge gap in the canyon route at Jackass Mountain. When the section from Kanaka Bar to Hope is able to reopen, trucks of legal width and weight will be allowed, but loads will be limited to 25 metres long until the rehabilitation of the highway bridge at Nocomen River is completed.
The ministry had hoped to get traffic through the canyon by now, but heavy snow and cold weather slowed progress. Fleming said Highway 1 is now expected to reopen before the end of January. Lengthy delays should be expected, as the canyon route will have an at-grade train crossing, avalanche control and sections of single-lane alternating traffic. Winter tire and chain-up regulations are in effect on all winter highways.
Fleming said a preliminary estimate of just the emergency repairs to highways is $170 to $220 million, and the full cost will not be known until design work is done to reinforce the damaged sections against similar flood events in the future.
Work is also underway on Highway 8 between Merritt and Spences Bridge, which had the worst damage as the Nicola River washed away roadbed and bridges at 23 sites. Fleming said temporary access has now been completed at 10 of those sites.