Locals are starting to feel skeptical the Trans-Canada Highway will every be fully four laned between Kamloops and Chase.
The growing doubt stems from two public information meetings relating to Premier Christy Clark’s proposal to four lane the highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border over the next 10 years at an anticipated cost of $650 million.
Over the course of these meetings, it was made clear the Premier’s proposal isn’t as advertised.
“People are thinking that [$650 million] is going to completely develop the entire area and that’s just not the case,” explained Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure regional manager Lorimer in a Shuswap Market News interview.
This, Lorimer continued, is part of the reason why the government is hosting the public meetings. They want to know which portions of the highway residents would like to see upgraded.
“We want to talk to people who drive the highway, who live the highway, because it is part of their daily lives.”
The first of these meetings was held Feb. 12 in Kamloops, the second on Feb. 13 in Chase.
Many who attended the latter meeting were initially of the belief that the entire stretch of highway between Chase and Kamloops would one day be expanded to four lanes straight through. The reality, they learned, is that only patches four-laning may occur over the next decade.
Mike Lorimer says plans are already in the works for seven projects in total. Two of these will occur between Kamloops and Chase.
The first, located bet Monte Creek and Pritchard, has already begun. The second project will stretch from Pritchard to Hoffman’s Bluff, and is set to roll out in two phases.
Lorimer says the total cost of these projects is expected be around $80 million, adding they are awaiting finalization.
“The engineering and design work is done, and we have got the funding in place with the federal government,” he says.
There were issues, he said, with a number of houses along the project route where the province hasn’t been able to come to a settlement on the property. While the negotiations themselves are confidential, Lorimer says they are working on agreements that will make both parties happy.
The first phase of the Pritchard to Hoffman’s project is expected to begin this summer, and take about 14 to 15 months to complete through two construction seasons. The second phase will be a two-year project.
Lorimer ensures the projects will go ahead as planned, explaining they make up a component of the $650 million program. The problem is that the majority of the money has not yet been allocated, which means the remaining portions of Highway 1 between Chase and Kamloops do not have anything scheduled to take place. Which goes back to why public input is necessary for the ministry.
“Especially for folks who are driving fairly often, if there is a particular section that concerns them, we want to hear about,” says Lorimer. “We are looking for comments on what is going to impact people most in their daily lives.
“Would they rather have a four lane quite a ways from town to allow for better passing opportunities? Or the section that’s closer to town for people who are commuting from rural areas.”
More than 75 fatalities, and 1,050 injuries occurred between 2007 and 2011 alone on the stretch of highway between Chase and Kamloops, which sees high volumes of commuters, tourists and commercial traffic daily.
Input on the four laning can also be submitted through the ministry’s community engagement website at http://engage.gov.bc.ca/bchwy1/.