The province held an information session in Revelstoke last month about the upcoming highway expansion project east of Golden.
The fourth and most difficult phase of Kicking Horse Canyon Project is scheduled to begin this fall. Construction is expected to cost $601 million and estimated to be complete by the winter of 2023/24.
“This is an extremely complex project,” said Art McClean, operations manager from the Ministry of Transportation.
“We’re redesigning a 1950s highway.”
|Map of the Kicking Horse Canyon project. (Province of B.C.)|
When Phase 4 was first introduced in 2016, the price tag was $450 million.
The province said the 34 per cent price increase is due to additional engineering, design and geotechnical work, additional foundation supports for bridges and retaining calls, consultation with Indigenous communities and the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).
Hiring under CBS includes provisions for hiring local workers, Indigenous Peoples, apprentices and women in trades. The application of CBA will cost $35 million, roughly six per cent of the project’s total budget.
Phase 4 involves redesigning and expanding a 4.8 km section of highway, just outside Golden. Currently, the highway in this area is wedged next to crumbling cliffs and frequently susceptible to rockfall and avalanches. There are also multiple tight corners.
The province states Kicking Horse Canyon sees collision rates three times higher than the provincial average for similar two-lane highways.
The improvements include turning the two-lane highway into four lanes, straightening 13 sharp curves, adding a 2.5 metre shoulder, improving catchment for avalanches, as well as adding retaining walls and median barriers to reduce collisions.
The province is aiming to reduce collisions by 66 per cent and increase the posted speed limit from 80 km/h to 100 km/h.
Various types of closures are expected, such as delays of up to 20 minutes, scheduled closures less than two hours, overnight closures up to 10 hours and extended 24-hour closures.
The province said there will be no 24-hour closures during the summer or winter, only in April, May, September, October and November. No daytime closures are expected during summer months.
The extended 24-hour closures should be posted three months in advance on DriveBC. Traffic will be diverted to Highway 93 and Highway 95, adding an extra 100 kilometres to the drive from Calgary to Golden.
Revelstoke mayor Gary Sulz said he is concerned about the project’s impact on Revelstoke, in particular on tourism from Calgarians with the added drive time.
“Definitely Revelstoke will take a financial hit,” said Sulz.
He wonders if at the intersection of Highway 93 and 95, drivers will instead turn left and go to closer destinations such as Invermere or take the longer road and turn right to Golden and Revelstoke.
“Only time will tell which direction people will turn.”
McClean said the project will be difficult due to avalanche and rockfall hazards to road crew. He said the Rocky mountains are not a strong mountain range.
“They tend to fall down.”
Below the highway is the railway, McClean said the work cannot interrupt rail traffic. Nor the Kicking Horse River.
McClean continued that the contractor will be held to their proposed closure times.
“If they say two hours, it better be two hours,” he said.
If it’s longer, McClean said there could be financial penalties.
In 2003, the Kicking Horse Canyon Project was launched to improve 26 km of highway between Golden and Yoho National Park. The province said all four phases will cost $927 million, with the Government of Canada providing $350 million and B.C. covering the rest. Each summer, roughly 12,000 vehicles travel this section of highway daily.