Highway 3 between Salmo and Castlegar near the Bombi Summit has been re-opened (as of 3 p.m. Friday) to single lane traffic after an unexpected build-up of ground water washed part of the road away last week.
The road had been closed for a period of several hours on Friday afternoon.
Crews from Emcon are busy repairing the road. Reconstruction efforts are expected to take about three weeks.
“One of our supervisors on patrol called it in, as did several members of the public,” said Joe Mottishaw, division manager for Emcon Services for the Kootenay Boundary. “We were up there within about 15 minutes of the slide happening and we quickly secured the area.”
Mottishaw said the slide was caused by excess water coming down from a logging operation aided by the heavy rain fall.
“There are a lot of rock and surface water in the area,” he said. “In a matter of time, water travels along the path of least resistance. The water didn’t stay in it’s course up above, and came down a new course with all the rain. It’s been unusual rain along with the seasonal melt of the snow.”
Rebuilding the area under the highway is expected to take a while, particularly with the wet weather hampering crew’s efforts.
“We’re building it with rock part way up and then we’re going to put a lot of drainage in it,” said Mottishaw.
Emcon has pioneered a new road below the highway to allow crews to bring in rocks to fill underneath the hole.
“We’ve gone in from the bottom and mucked out all the wet material back to solid ground at the base,” he said. “That’s where we’ll start our rock fill and come back up. It’s an extensive operation, but it takes time to drain the problem area and make sure we’re on solid ground before we start the fill.”
The highway was closed both ways on Friday, May 4, after excessive rain led to the hole becoming beginner. Single lane traffic was opened up several hours later and remains in effect.
“We had a bit more slippage with the rains last week,” said Mottishaw. “The Ministry of Transportation’s goetechnical engineer came back in and we had a spotter so we moved the equipment out for a day.”
Mottishaw says crews are back at work and taking advantage of the drier weather.
“The footprint is now a little bigger,” he said. “We’re at it again this week. We’re going to start hauling rocks soon. It was supposed to be Monday. There’s probably a delay by a week. It’s a little bigger of backfill now. We’re now three weeks from the end of this week from completion. Rain’s hurt us. Looks like the long range forecast is for good weather. We should be able to be fairly aggressive and make some good progess.”
Flaggers are on the scene 24 hours a day to ensure the safety of travellers.