Highway project moves ahead

Ministry says Salmon Arm TCH improvements should be completed by 2022.

A sign by the side of the highway at the west end of Salmon Arm with the provides estimated cost and completion date for the highway expansion project.

A sign by the side of the highway at the west end of Salmon Arm with the provides estimated cost and completion date for the highway expansion project.

The plan to four-lane Highway 1 west of Salmon Arm is beginning to take shape, leaving business owners in the area divided on the impact construction will have.

Construction of the project is tentatively scheduled to run from Spring 2017 into 2022.

A sign by the side of the highway at the west end of Salmon Arm reads completion of the project is planned for fall 2022 with a total value of $162.7 Million.

According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s (MOTI) website, the project will be completed in three phases, from the IR #3 boundary near Pierre’s Point Road to First Avenue SW, First Avenue SW to 30th Street SW and 30th Street SW to 10th St. SW.

A total of six kilometres of highway will be widened with a median barrier and a new bridge over the Salmon River will be constructed. The ministry also pledged improved access to and from the Trans-Canada Highway and an improved pedestrian and cyclist trail network.

Upgrades to intersections are promised for the phase running from IR #3 to First Avenue SW.

The phase of the project spanning from First Avenue SW to 30th Street SW is listed on the website as being in design, with site preparation work occurring. The other two phases of the project are listed as in design.

Demolition of buildings on properties next to the highway acquired by the ministry is ongoing and other site preparation work including clearing, environmental works and utility relocation is expected to take place during the winter.

Once the early site preparation work is complete, the process of pre-loading, placing materials to compress soft soils in the construction area, will take place.

Once the preload process is complete a contract is expected to be issued in spring 2018 for highway grading and the new Salmon River bridge.

According to the ministry, traffic through the construction area will be monitored by MOTI staff, and updates and advance notifications will be provided through message signs, DriveBC and social media. The ministry points to previous projects in the Kicking Horse Canyon and Sea-to-Sky Highway and the Trans-Canada Highway at the Port Mann bridge as examples of successful traffic management in construction zones.

Dale Ruth, owner of Pedro Gonzales Fruit and Garden, was optimistic the project could be handled in a way that would minimize the effects on his business

“Right now common sense would say they would build the new section first and keep the old section of the Trans-Canada moving. There’s a lot of traffic that flows through there,” Ruth said. “That’s how I’m hoping it plays out; I can’t see them doing it any other way. I don’t see them detouring traffic down Silver Creek and along Foothill Road.”

Ruth said he doesn’t think traffic disruption will be as bad as when the centre turning lane went in at the west end of Salmon Arm.

“I like the looks of the project and if they do it right I think it can be good.” He said.

“When  you stand back and look at the scope and the size of this project, it just seems like it’s not something that we need that big of a project for,” said Brad DeMille, owner of DeMille’s Farm Market.

DeMille said he believes ultimately it’ll be safer to get in and out of DeMille’s during the busy summer months, but complained of a lack of highway exposure for his business.

“In Canada it’s really nice to be on the highway; you get businesses and entire towns built around highway traffic,” he said.

DeMille said he isn’t opposed to widening the highway but thinks the project  should be modified and downsized.

He also complained about a lack of consultation on the project and said he wasn’t told about the press conference in September when the cost of the project was announced.