B.C.’s Coquihalla Highway to reopen Monday to commercial traffic and inter-city buses | CBC News
The Coquihalla Highway is set to reopen to commercial traffic and inter-city buses on Dec. 20, a month after it was significantly damaged by floods and mudslides.
B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming made the announcement at a news conference on Wednesday.
He said the reopening of the stretch of Highway 5 between Hope and Merritt was “one of the most remarkable engineering feats in recent memory in the province of British Columbia.”
Fleming says the exact time of day the Coquihalla would be open to commercial traffic is yet to be determined, but it would be before the end of day Monday.
Permanent repairs to the stretch will take longer, Fleming said, and will occur as essential traffic flows through the corridor starting Dec. 20.
Some of the sections of the road will only have two lanes open, and electricity will not be operational through those stretches. More details are set to be provided before the reopening on Monday.
Officials said the route will take 45 minutes longer than usual to travel in ideal weather conditions due to the damage.
The arterial route was damaged in more than 20 places after mudslides in mid-November collapsed multiple bridges, and has been closed to all travel since Nov. 15.
There is no date set yet for when the highway will be open to everyone.
There will be checkpoints at Hope and Merritt to ensure non-essential traffic is kept off the highway on Dec. 20.
Highway 3, which served as the commercial route to the Interior after the Coquihalla closure, will be reopened to all traffic on Tuesday.
The stretch has been restricted to essential traffic since mid-November, as has Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet. That stretch will also be open to all traffic on Dec. 21.
While the highways are “safe,” according to Fleming, the transportation minister urged people not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
“Holiday gatherings are something that people should really think carefully about,” he said. “Stay local if you can.”
Highway 1, which is still closed through the Fraser Canyon, is expected to be open in mid-January.
No estimate yet on flood rebuilding costs
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said B.C.’s farmers and ranchers, who were significantly affected by the floods, are now looking forward to cleanup and recovery.
She said the number of farms still under evacuation order has dropped to just over 30 from a peak of over 1,000.
Soil assessments throughout the province will be taking place in the coming weeks, according to Popham, as farmers look ahead to spring and the growing season. Some chicken farms in the Sumas Prairie region of Abbotsford have already resumed operations.
“The tone out there from farmers is that they just want to get back to work as soon as possible,” she said.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said that, so far, the Red Cross had handed out $12.4 million to evacuees, and urged those who had to leave their homes to register with the charity.
In a meeting with the federal committee set up to deal with the floods on Monday, Farnworth says he sought additional supports from the federal government.
Ottawa’s initial $5 billion pledge to help B.C. recover reflected the “historic” scale of the flooding disaster, according to Farnworth. However, he did not provide an estimate during the news conference on the full cost of rebuilding.
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