Long road ahead for B.C. as repairs to Coquihalla Highway, main route between Vancouver and Kamloops, get under way

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Traffic moves along Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack after closing for the past 11 days in Abbotsford, BC on November 25.Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

British Columbians received a grim assessment Thursday of the magnitude of the repairs needed for the Coquihalla Highway as the province’s transport minister explained it would be two months before the critically important artery would allow a slow stream of trucks to return.

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Transportation Minister Rob Fleming told reporters at a flood briefing that Coquihalla, a popular shortcut linking Vancouver to Kamloops, which was built in the 1980s for a billion dollars, suffered heavy damage when last week’s atmospheric river flooded It brought a month’s worth of rain to southern BC. 2 days.

He said around 20 sites along 130 km of the highway were damaged or washed away, including five bridges where spans were completely collapsed or nearly collapsed.

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“It’s going to be an uphill task to get that highway fully operational, but I’m happy to report that work has begun,” Mr. Fleming said. He did not have an estimate of the cost of the repair.

Despite the need to demolish and replace several bridges with temporary structures, the minister said the province is “reasonably optimistic” that all repairs can be completed by the end of January so that commercial traffic can once again flow through the Coast Mountains. can flow from But the minister said the plan could be derailed by more extreme weather, and even when it does reopen there will be two long sections where trucks will have to slow down and take one direction on the same lane. Must have alternate driving.

Mr. Fleming gives his highway update as the whole of BC on Thursday. A new series of storms began in

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnsworth said Thursday the storm was the first of three rain events over the next few days, with the largest storm expected to hit the southern part of the province on Tuesday.

Rivers already swollen from regular rainfall can rise to dangerous heights, and he urged residents to prepare for evacuations and watch for updates.

“These storms are coming at a time when we are already dealing with the most devastating weather ever,” Mr Farnworth said.

Meanwhile, the provincial government says the section of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) between Abbotsford and Chilliwack has been approved for reopening and will connect the Lower Mainland to the Interior via Southern Highway 3. Because major roadways will continue. Reconstruction from last week’s floods.

This newly reopened section is not subject to an essential-travel order, but the government is asking people to stay off Highway 1 through Abbotsford unless travel is essential, adding that the lower speed limit so drivers can expect slow traffic.

Last week’s storm closed Trans-Canada an hour’s drive north of Hope, where it runs parallel to Coquihalla, only to the west. The government said there was no timetable for reopening that section as an assessment of the destruction was ongoing.

Jeremy G., professor and director of environmental science at BC’s Simon Fraser University. Venditti toured the length of Fraser Canyon last Friday as part of his research into how the 2019 Big Bar landslide has affected salmon migration.

He and his team counted 15 recent landslides that caused damage to rail lines or Trans-Canada. That’s significantly more than the one or two every year that usually collides with this deep rift created by the Fraser River, he said.

Dr. Venditti said, “Two things that surprised me were its extent – the vast mass of damage that occurred in the northern part of the valley – and then the size of some of those cuts.”

Despite the closure of these two important highways in the interior, BC has made progress on recovery efforts, with the supply chain stabilizing, gas shortages beginning to ease and allowing some evacuees to return to their homes in Merritt and Princeton. Has been. The Canadian Pacific Railway announced that its first trains carrying grain and fuel arrived in Vancouver from Kamloops.

Ottawa and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority have also announced that they are working together to address supply-chain disruptions. The government is contributing up to $4.1 million to ease bottlenecks at Vancouver ports when all rail lines and roads in the interior were torn down last week, a statement from federal ministers for transportation and emergency preparedness said. had gone.

Steven Rice, a director for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, said some residents of Spence Bridge, northwest of Merritt, could return home after flooding and a landslide hit the area and washed away several sections of Highway 8.

Mr Rice, who is also a farmer, said he and several other residents were forced to flee their property with little more than clothes on their backs. He said the Nicola River, which runs along flood-damaged Highway 8, has diverted and left some fields under water, he said.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said repairs to his community’s extensive dam system were about 95 percent complete and would be finished before the next big rain over the weekend.

“We have done everything to move forward,” he said.

With a report from the Canadian Press

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