The Kicking Horse Canyon stretch of Highway 1 east of Golden, B.C., will be closed for a month after Easter weekend for construction.
The section will be closed from noon on Tuesday, April 19, until May 20, just before the May long weekend. Drivers will be diverted south at Golden to Radium Hot Springs, then back to the highway through Kootenay National Park.
The construction is part of the fourth and final phase of the Kicking Horse Canyon project, which will upgrade the highway section from two to four lanes, create more space for cyclists and mitigate rock fall and avalanche hazards.
Project director Mike Lorimer said the alternative route will add about an hour-and-a-half for drivers.
“We recognize the inconvenience to all road users … what we have to keep in perspective is this work will, in the long run, create a much more safer and reliable highway,” said Lorimer.
Lorimer said they planned the closure so as to not affect the Easter or May long weekends.
Currently, the section of the highway is under construction while also open to traffic, with overnight closures from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and 30-minute stoppages during certain times of the day.
The month-long closure is necessary for work that requires full use of the highway, according to Lorimer.
“We’ve got some of the most challenging terrain, we’re very constrained, we’ve got CP Rail right below us,” he said.
Lorimer warned drivers to not try to make up for lost time on their trip by speeding.
“Speeding and unsafe driving behaviour is not going to make you catch up on time. Plan for the extra hour-and-a-half, enjoy the drive through the mountains.”
Added cost for truck deliveries
B.C. Trucking Association president Dave Earle said thousands of trucks pass through the canyon every day as it’s the main route for goods moving east-west in and out of B.C.
“When you look around you … it’s very, very difficult to find anything that didn’t come on the back of a truck … quite literally everything you can think of moves along that corridor,” he said.
Earle said the detour means journeys between Calgary and Vancouver can no longer be done in one day. He said many companies will use “switch points” where they switch drivers along the route.
“Ultimately, if it takes longer to move a load, it will cost more,” said Earle.
He said these costs will most likely be passed on to shippers and receivers, but may affect the trucking companies and consumers in the long run.
Earle said the project co-ordinators have done an excellent job at consulting industry stakeholders and have kept the trucking association informed on all closures.
“They have been remarkably transparent, consistent and open, and just really good at communicating,” he said.
Phase 4 of the project is expected to be complete by winter 2023-24.