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Upgrading the Trans-Canada highway


December 22, 2021
By Grant Cameron

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Trans-Canada HighwayPhoto: Government of British Columbia.

Road and bridge-building projects are underway or slated to begin at several locations along the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops, B.C., and the Alberta border – part of an ambitious $837-million venture to widen the thoroughfare and transform it into a modern and safer four-lane highway.

There are nine separate projects along the 430-kilometre stretch of highway, which is the primary east-west gateway through B.C. and a vital route for travel, tourism and trade. For the most part, the project entails expanding the current footprint of the highway to four from two lanes. In most areas, lanes will be added alongside the existing route. In some areas, the highway may have to be realigned slightly.

“We may shift the highway slightly to get a better horizontal alignment,” says Jennifer Fraser, director of the Trans-Canada Highway program, Southern Interior Region, for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. “We might add a lane and three quarters on one side and a quarter lane on the other side. But by and large, we intend to stay on line with the current construction and just make some minor tweaks.”

The biggest project along the route is at Kicking Horse Canyon, just east of Golden, B.C.

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Kicking Horse Canyon Constructors, which consists of Aecon Group Inc., Parsons Inc. and Emil Anderson Construction, was awarded a $440.6-million contract for the last and most difficult phase of the work.

Three phases of the project have already transformed 21 kilometres of narrow, winding two-lane highway into a modern four-lane, 100-kilometre-per-hour standard.

RELATED: B.C. expanding section of Trans-Canada Highway to four lanes

The fourth phase entails widening another 4.8 kilometres of the highway to four lanes. The challenge of the work is substantial, as it is one of the most rugged sections of the highway and in a severely constrained area.

The fourth phase work involves realigning 13 curves and building wider shoulders, mitigating rockfall and avalanche hazards by building rock catchment ditches, and adding fencing and passage areas for wildlife.

The fourth phase is expected to be substantially complete in early 2024. At a total cost of $601 million, the Kicking Horse Canyon section of the highway improvements are the most costly.

Another major project along the route is the widening of 4.3 kilometres of roadway from Ford Road to Tappen Valley Road, west of Salmon Arm.

Detailed design of the $243-million project has been completed and work is scheduled to start next spring. The venture will include replacement of the existing Tappen Overhead Bridge, an aging structure that was in need of rehabilitation.

Crews have started tree clearing and relocation of hydro infrastructure in the area in preparation for construction work to begin.

“We’re really excited about this project because it gives us an opportunity to address an incredibly high-use area of the Trans-Canada Highway,” says Fraser.

There have been a number of incidents in the section of highway due to motorists getting on and off the highway and making dangerous passing manoeuvres.

“It is going to have an impact on the safety and reliability of the Trans-Canada Highway,” said Fraser.

“There’s so many people in this area who commute to work in Salmon Arm and it’s going to make it one less thing to worry about because this section is going to be so much safer.”

The project runs through Little Shuswap Lake Band. New frontage roads will make for better connections to the Little Shuswap Lake community and acceleration and deceleration lanes will be added to make it safer to get on and off the highway. Improved highway geometrics will allow vehicles to travel safely at an increased speed.

A new eastbound commercial carrier pullout is also slated to be built, which will enable authorities to safely check trucks and other vehicles carrying heavy loads.

Cyclists will be able to use the route as wider shoulders are being built along the frontage roads.

A new structure will be built to replace the existing Tappen bridge. The plan is to build a new bridge alongside the existing one, then demolish the old bridge. The entire project will take several years.

Up to 2,000 construction and other jobs will be created by the project.

In Chase, east of Kamloops, there are two projects in the works, valued at $260.3 million.

A 1.6-kilometre stretch of the highway in the village is being widened to four lanes and scheduled for completion in fall 2022. A median and roadside barrier will be installed and improvements made to municipal infrastructure.

Work is also underway on widening 3.3 kilometres of the highway at the western end of the village. The work includes median and roadside barrier and active transportation improvements.

In Salmon Arm, construction is underway on widening 2.2 kilometres of the highway from 1st Ave. SW to 10th Ave. SW. Springline Construction Services Ltd. of Delta is doing the work.

Designs are being finalized to widen another kilometre of the highway between 10th Ave. SW and 10th Street SW.