Huge surge in traffic volume could create headaches for already short-staffed RCMP

By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

The district of Invermere will ask the provincial government to bring more RCMP traffic control officers to the Columbia Valley ahead of an anticipated surge in traffic volume on Highway 93 and Highway 95 during the upcoming closure of the TransCanada Highway.

The Kicking Horse Canyon section of the TransCanada has long been slated for ‘twinning’ upgrades (which will see the section of the national highway that passes through the narrow canyon, located between Field and Golden, expanded from the current one lane in each direction to two lanes in each direction). That work is finally set to begin this spring, with the first multi-day closure of the TransCanada set for April 12 through to May 14. All traffic that normally would have passed between Golden and Lake Louise on the TransCanada will instead be re-routed on an hours-long detour down Highways 93 through Kootenay National Park, arriving in Radium and then heading up north through the Columbia Valley on Highway 95 to Golden.

During Invermere’s Tuesday, March 9, council meeting, Invermere chief administrative officer Andre Young explained that he’d had conversations with the local Columbia Valley RCMP as well as other agencies and that “they have expressed some concern about the potential traffic volumes and speed impacts on Highway 93 and 95,” and that “these concerns are generally shared by our neighbours (other nearby municipalities).”

Young suggested to council that district staff could draw up a letter, to be signed by the mayor, to lobby for additional RCMP traffic management resources “to help address some of these anticipated negative impacts.” He went on to add that Columbia Valley RCMP Sergeant Darren Kakuno had outlined to him that the local RCMP detachment is currently somewhat short-staffed, because of the recent or soon-to-be retirement or re-posting of several long-term RCMP members, and this situation will make it more challenging to deal with the negative effects of the increased traffic volume.

Council members unanimously agreed to Young’s suggestion, with councillor Greg Anderson noting that “the local detachment needs the additional traffic support…it’s going to be a test.”

The work being carried out on the TransCanada during this closure includes geotechnical work, clearing, heavy excavation, piling and hauling. The road will be completely closed to all traffic except for a half-hour period for local traffic (primarily residents of Field B.C.) and commuter traffic in the morning (from 7 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.), escorted by a pilot vehicle, and a similar half-hour period in the afternoon (from 4:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). A school bus taking children from Field to Golden will also be allowed through, once again escorted by a pilot vehicle, at 8:15 a.m. and then taking the kids home again at 3:15 p.m.

The Kicking Horse Canyon upgrades will continue to be done in intervals (rather than continuously), with work timed as much as possible to fall into shoulder seasons or other off-peaks times, until expected completion some time in winter 2024.