By Dan Walton
Special to the Pioneer
She’ll be comin’ ‘round the Rocky Mountains when they close the Trans-Canada Highway.
The eventual closures of Highway 1 for major construction in the coming years means the heavy traffic that travels between Golden and Lake Louise will have be rerouted through the Village of Radium Hot Springs, subjecting motorists to a 103-kilometre detour.
Construction is expected to happen over the course of several phases during the spring and fall when traffic volumes are lower.
With so much extra traffic coming through the Village during slower times of the year, Radium Mayor Clara Reinhardt is focusing on how that can benefit local businesses.
“What do we need to do to entice people to get off the road, have a look around and maybe make it (Radium) their next destination,” she said, adding that it may be a good opportunity for seasonal businesses to expand into the shoulder months.
She said Parks Canada is looking at enhanced signage and maintenance for the increased traffic volume.
Local MLA Doug Clovechok said the rerouting of Trans-Can traffic through Radium means “a quiet road is going to be incredibly busy,” adding there may some Highway 1 motorists opting to avoid the construction by taking Highway 3 or Highway 16.
Mr. Clovechok wants to make sure the extra traffic doesn’t create too much more work for the local cops.
“I pushed hard to make sure the RCMP detachments in Golden and Invermere didn’t end up being traffic guys, taking our officers off of general duty,” he said.
Many aspects of the project are uncertain at the time being, Mr. Clovechok said, but he is expecting the four-way intersection of Highway 93 and 95 to get upgraded into a roundabout, something he has been “pushing hard for… that’ll alleviate some of the traffic concerns.”
Area G Director Gerry Wilkie recalls Trans-Can traffic getting diverted through Radium several times in the past for various reasons, and said “it’s critical to have (the roundabout) done before traffic’s diverted.
“You have a highway that was never really built for that volume of traffic,” said Mr. Wilkie.
Mr. Wilkie plans to bring the issue up at the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) meeting this September in Vancouver, which will be “a matter of reinforcing our concerns and coming up with an effective management plan.”
In 2011 while the same detour was in place, three men died in a motor vehicle accident near Spillimacheen. After reviewing the incident in 2013, a Coroner’s inquest came up with four recommendations:
• That if the Trans Canada Highway is closed for any length of time and Highway 95 is used as alternate route, that Highway 95 should be deemed a Class A highway.
• That an acceleration and deceleration lane should be built at the Spillimacheen Rest Area.
• When Highway 95 is used as alternate route, that portable road information signs be placed both south of Golden and north of Radium Hot Springs.
• Considering the location of Highway 95, that the speed limit should be reduced to 90 kilometres per hour between Golden and Radium.
The federal agency for transportation, when asked if Highway 93 and Highway 95 will be treated differently during the rerouting, passed the buck to the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“The enforcement of road and highway legislation, driver and vehicle licensing, and motor vehicle rules and regulations falls under provincial, territorial and municipal jurisdictions,” said Transport Canada media relations officer Annie Joannette.
The provincial transportation agency won’t have a clear understanding of the temporary operations until a traffic management strategy is “fully developed,” but rest assured that “Safety on all provincial roadways remains our top priority and appropriate road conditions will be maintained at all times,” a provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson said in an email. “The project team is currently developing a traffic management strategy that minimizes and mitigates the traffic disruptions while allowing the work to proceed safely, on schedule and with reasonable efficiency. The team is continuing to collaborate with the Community Liaison Committee and key stakeholders to identify issues and opportunities to be considered in developing and implementing the traffic management strategy.”
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson said the project “is expected to get underway in 2020, with project completion in 2024.”
The first step is the Request for Qualifications, which the Ministry says will be issued soon.
The spokesperson called Kicking Horse Canyon section the most challenging section of Highway 1 in B.C slated for construction. “from a geotechnical and construction perspective.”
– With files from Greg Amos