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Highway 8 in B.C.’s Interior reconnected, 10 months after torrential rains washed out 25 sections

An aerial view of one of the reconnected sections of Highway 8 in B.C.’s Southern Interior. Ministry of Transportation

Ten months after torrential rains washed out 25 sections of Highway 8 in B.C.’s Southern Interior last November, the road has been reconnected.

The Ministry of Transportation announced the news on Friday afternoon, calling it a major milestone.

However, the ministry noted that while the highway has been reconnected, it’s only open to local traffic, and that the reopened portions are gravel rough, not pavement smooth.

Read more: Flooding, fires and heat: A year of unprecedented weather extremes in B.C.

 

In an interview with Global News, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said the highway “is not up to full traffic conditions yet.”

In all, the 25 washed-out sections totalled nine km in length, along with three bridge structures.

“Bit by bit, kilometre by kilometre, we have fully restored the connection,” said Fleming, adding 500 people were evacuated from their homes because of last year’s storms.

“Stubbornly, there were four or five homes that were not able to be reconnected. And today, we can announce that they are. So the great news is that some people who waited 10 months to get back into their homes can get there.

“They’ll need a vehicle, probably a four-by-four to do so, but we are ahead of schedule on where we thought we’d be on being able to restore Highway 8.”

Fleming said there’s still a lot of work ahead to get it fully paved and open to general travel.

He also thanked contractors, unions, First Nations and other ministries in getting to this point.

Asked how much it’ll cost to repair last year’s storm damage, Fleming pegged it around $1 billion to temporarily repair Highway 1, the Coquihalla and Highway 8.

Click to play video: 'B.C.’s Coquihalla Highway reopens to commercial traffic weeks after extreme weather disaster' B.C.’s Coquihalla Highway reopens to commercial traffic weeks after extreme weather disaster
B.C.’s Coquihalla Highway reopens to commercial traffic weeks after extreme weather disaster – Dec 20, 2021

He also said Highway 8 is undergoing massive improvements, as some of it was “paved over walking trails and wagon trails. It was not a proper roadbed. We now have a highway that’s built to modern, climate-resilient standards.”

Fleming also said B.C. is becoming a leader in highway reconstruction.

A map from the province showing what highways were damaged from last November’s rainstorms. Province of B.C.

“Even before the atmospheric river event of November 2021, we’d already been gaining a reputation in North America as having a lot of expertise,” he said.

“We’ve had disasters in the Cariboo region. We’ve been rebuilding roads from freshet and flood events. And we’re leading a discussion with state and provincial jurisdictions on building back better, and what climate-resilient infrastructure looks like.

“These do require new engineering standards. When we rebuild the Coquihalla, for example, some of the bridge lengths will be two or three times longer in length.

“They will have floodplain infrastructure underneath to service that river valley to get water away from our highways — to protect them, in case we have an event like this again.”

Click to play video: 'Coquihalla Highway reopens to general public' Coquihalla Highway reopens to general public
Coquihalla Highway reopens to general public – Jan 19, 2022

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