One of British Columbia’s most important transport routes is set to reopen for commercial vehicles on Monday, after suffering major damage in November’s storms.
Road staff worked around the clock to bring Coquihalla Highway online again – with restrictions – on December 20, weeks before previous estimates of when it might be safe to drive.
“There is no possible way to express our thanks enough, not only for the engineering staff, but for the workers who have worked in the cold and the rain and the snow on a high mountain road, literally day and night for a month, to get us back to this point, ”said BC Trucking Association President and CEO Dave Earle.
“It’s just a huge thank you from our industry.”
BC’s Coquihalla Highway is due to reopen on December 20 for commercial travel, buses
The highway will be limited to commercial vehicles and intercity buses and will have sections with reduced lanes and limited speed. Vehicles will be limited to 60 km / h two-lane sections and 100 km / h four-lane sections.
Earle said it was too early to say how much these limits could affect travel times, but that the Department of Transportation had estimated that it would add about an hour to truck driving.
The Coquihalla Highway is set to reopen for important travel on December 20th
BC’s main link between the lower mainland and the interior has been closed as it was hit by extensive damage from multiple landslides and leaching following a powerful atmospheric river that hit BC in mid-November.
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About 20 places are affected along the route and about 130 kilometers of the road need to be repaired.
Highway 1 also remains closed due to storm damage, and commercial traffic has been restricted to the steep, winding Highway 3.
Repairs are underway on Coquihalla Highway, officials trust the January reopening schedule is
“Trying to figure out how long it will take to place assets, how to move loads, has been challenging, and then the drivers who do the work and drive on Highway 3 have really had a challenging time, said Earle.
“It is a difficult highway. It was never designed to handle the amount of traffic we saw on it, but it has served us very well. “
In Merritt, which is still recovering from damage due to massive floods during the storm, residents are excited to re-establish a key route to the south coast.
“Getting Coquihalla back online is a huge deal for us. It’s by far the largest, most equal connection we have from Merritt to the lower mainland,” Merritt Emergency Operations Center information officer Greg Lowis told Global News Morning.
“It’s the vital artery that carries everything between the lower mainland and the interior, especially with Highway 1 still unavailable.”
Merritt remained connected to Kamloops and Kelowna by other routes, but Lowis noted that they included high mountain passes and have been exposed to challenging winter weather in recent weeks.
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The reopening of Coquihalla will help ensure a stable supply of key goods, including food, to the flood-stricken community.
Truckers passing through are unlikely to be able to stop for quite some time as Merritt hotels are fully booked with flood evacuees and floods.
“It is certainly true that we do not have the normal capacity that we would host for people who want to stop as part of their visit, but we still have facilities that people will be able to use,” he said, adding , that gas and food are available to all who pass by.
The province aims to remove the essential travel-only designation from Highway 3 within 24 hours of Coquihalla reopening.
But officials are still discouraging people from taking unnecessary trips, amid challenging road conditions and an increase in new COVID-19 cases.
– with files from Amy Judd
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