Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon Highway 1 project was announced Friday, making it the most expensive highway infrastructure project in British Columbia’s history, and possibly in Canada’s history.
Todd Stone, minister of transportation and infrastructure for the province, along with Amarjeet Sohi, minister of infrastructure for Canada, made the announcement in Kamloops.
“This is a very exciting announcement for everyone who lives between Kamloops and the Alberta border,” said Stone at the Kamloops press conference. “Together we are building stronger communities and creating thousands of jobs.”
The federal government’s contribution of $222 million, combined with B.C.’s investment of $247 million will fund two projects near Golden. The first, at a cost of just under $20 million, will four-lane the section from Donald to Forde Station Road, and improve access at the weigh scale.
Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon, which is a four-kilometre section east of Golden, will come in at $450 million. Highway 1 through the Kicking Horse Canyon will be realigned and expanded to four lanes with median barriers and widened shoulders. Improving this section will also require a combination of bridges, retaining walls, rock catchment ditches and other measures to reduce rock fall hazards.
Collisions and fatalities are three times the provincial average on this section of Highway 1.
“I think we all know someone, or have a friend or family member who has been affected by a fatality on this section of the highway,” said Stone. “Not only will this increase safety…it will create jobs up and down the entire corridor.”
Stone says these projects will create 1,400 direct jobs, most of which will be in Kamloops. However Golden and Revelstoke will both see a significant economic impact. Revelstoke Mayor Mark McKee and Golden Mayor Ron Oszust were both in Kamloops for the announcement.
“We in Golden have witnessed a decade of work on this section of highway,” said Oszust. “And we have benefited from hundreds of millions of dollars of economic stimulus from it.”
As a paramedic in Golden, Oszust says he has seen first hand how significant projects like these are on public safety.
“It is critically important…it cannot be understated,” he said.
Mayor McKee remarked on how thrilled he was to finally see a strong provincial and federal partnership to get this work done.
“You don’t have to move mountains because we can build highways through them,” said McKee. “Now that the partnership is there, we can do it.”
Once all the highway projects from Kamloops to the Alberta border that have been announced are complete, including work being done by the Federal Government in the parks, the entire corridor will be roughly 40 per cent complete.
The Donald to Forde Station Road project is expected to begin later this year, and will take a year to complete.
Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon, however, is significantly more extensive. Work is scheduled to begin in 2019, and is expected to take six to seven years to complete.
The highway through the area is “extremely compressed,” Stone said, with a rock face on one side and a steep drop into the canyon on the other.
“There’s a tremendous amount of blasting that’s required and the technical challenges really come into play in terms of do you tunnel, do you cantilever out — it’s a significantly challenging stretch of highway from a geography perspective,” he said.
At about $110 million per kilometre, Stone said it is likely the most expensive highway project ever in Canada.
“This really signifies the complexity of those four kilometres,” said Stone.
Norm Macdonald, the MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke, applauded the announcement, saying it was badly needed.
“It is a long time coming,” he said in a news release. “But it will bring economic benefits not only to Golden but to the whole region. It means safer, more dependable highways. And it is the right thing to do.”
But, he noted, a lot of work still needs to be done to finish four-laning the highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border, including the bulk of the stretch from Craigellachie to Donald.
“We will continue to fight for improvements all along the highway,” he said. “It is a huge project, but it must be completed.”
With files from Alex Cooper, Revelstoke Review; and Andrea Klassen, Kamloops This Week