Officials involved with a major highway expansion project near Golden provided an update to the Regional District of East Kootenay as a contract for the $601-million project is set to be awarded this fall.
The project, a 4.8 kilometre expansion of the TransCanada highway in the Kicking Horse Canyon, is currently in the process of selecting one proposal out of three that were submitted to the government, according to Art McClean, Operations Manager with the Rocky Mountain District division of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
A winning bid will likely be selected by the end of the month and limited construction will start in the fall, he said.
The project is one of four phases of construction in the canyon, which have been ongoing since 2002.
“The intent here, as has been throughout the other projects, is to improve traveller safety,” said McClean. “The highway reliability is obviously very important, we have quite a bit of rockfall and avalanche hazard through the Phase 4 section, which we’re going to be addressing.
“And we’re also trying to address and reduce the vehicle-wildlife collisions through fencing and passage structures.”
On the Phase 4 route, McClean says there will be extended closures in order to accommodate construction, however, those longer closures lasting a day or more will occur in the spring and fall shoulder seasons.
Crews are also going to work during the night as much as possible, and there will not be any daytime summer or long weekend closures, he added.
With full construction expected to start next spring, Highway 93/95 is being prepared as an alternate route for travellers. A ‘substantial’ signage package is being prepared in the coming weeks to inform travellers about the alternate route, McClean added.
Roughly 20 per cent of travellers will end up going elsewhere and not choose the Highway 93/95 alternative route, said McClean, basing his estimate off personal experience and backed up by computer modelling.
“What we’ve actually got here is we expect roughly 20 per cent of traffic…will be diverted outside of our alternate route, so it will be going down, for example, to Highway 3,” McClean said. “Ultimately, if that actually transpires, that will represent a change of about nine per cent on the total volume of Highway 3 and that will increase the truck volume by about 50 per cent.
“Now that number sounds very big, but the reality — when we’re looking at the shoulder period of the year — that 50 per cent actually amounts to be about 12 trucks per hour at the peak.
“So about one every five minutes, that’s roughly what we’re looking at.”
Many RDEK directors raised concerns over increased traffic flow on the alternate route, with one suggesting speed reductions in the Columbia Valley, while another worried about increased commercial truck traffic on a highway that has multiple school bus stops near West Fernie.
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