Elk Valley locals should expect to see more traffic on Hwy. 3 well in to 2022 as a result of the mudslide damage to other highways in the province, according to Sparwood Mayor David Wilks.
Wilks, who is the chair of the Hwy.3 Mayors and Chairs Coalition – which is a grouping of municipal leaders focused on continued improvement of Hwy. 3 – said during a report to Sparwood council that the traffic was here to stay.
“We anticipate that commercial traffic will stay fairly high through Hwy. 3 up to and including April or May of 2022, until such time as they can get Hwy. 1 fixed.
“That is anticipated to be 5-7 months,” he said.
Typically, Hwy. 3 carried between 6,000-8,000 vehicles per day in winter, with a high volume of commercial traffic using it as an alternative to Hwy. 1 as an east-west route across the province.
With Hwy. 1 disrupted, much of the traffic going through it has been diverting to Hwy. 3, which as of Dec. 9 remains the only unbroken Hwy from the Alberta Border through to B.C.s Lower Mainland, although travel is restricted to essential only.
Signage has been erected at the B.C.-Alberta border warning of heightened traffic on Hwy. 3, along with signs at the Elko tunnel, which Wilks said was more for truckers unfamiliar with the route.
Wilks added that the Coquihalla remained a major sticking point for re-opening the province’s Hwy network.
“They’re looking at the Coquihalla, and although news reports say January, the reality is, to get the Coquihalla fixed to its former self is going to onward and upwards to at least a year, if not longer.”
Vital infrastructure along the Coquihalla, which connects Hope to Merritt through the Coquihalla Pass, was undermined and destroyed by the flooding and mudslides triggered by the atmospheric river rainfall event in mid-November.
In late November, B.C’s minister of transportation, Rob Fleming said that the January re-opening target was on the timeline of repairs being temporary to open the Hwy to commercial traffic.
“When we do open up, obviously, like other highways that have been impacted, it won’t be business as usual on the Coquihalla,” he said at he time, explaining that the extent of the damage meant some stretches of the typically four-lane highway would be reduced to one lane in each direction with reduced speeds.
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