Heavily damaged Coquihalla could reopen by late January

Commercial traffic could be moving on the heavily damaged Coquihalla Hwy 5 in just over two months’ time, by late January 2022.

“We’re reasonably optimistic that enough temporary repairs can be completed to allow commercial traffic on the corridor in two months’ time in late January,” Rob Fleming, B.C. Minister for Transportation and Infrastructure said.

Crews work on the Jessica Bridge located on BC Highway 5. B.C. Ministry of Transportation photo.

He acknowledged it’s a daunting, uphill task and one that will be contingent on the weather and future storms as the province heads into winter.

During a news conference Thursday, the minister said repair work is already underway: more than 100 pieces of equipment are being utilized this week as part of the repairs and more are being mobilized.

Many of these will be temporary fixes aimed at just getting the key artery open again. At the Jessica Bridge and the Bottle Top area crews are installing temporary bridges for instance.

Highway 5 – Coquihalla -Sowaqua Bridge. B.C. Ministry of Transportation photo.

Some 20 sites along Hwy 5 were damaged or washed away during the storm from Nov. 13 to 15. All told this has impacted 130 km of roadway Fleming said, including five bridges that have either collapsed or heavily damaged.

Fleming also said it’s not clear how much the repair work on Hwy 5 will cost, as engineers are still assessing the damage.

When the Coquihalla Highway does open for commercial traffic, Fleming said there will be two segments – 20 to 30 kilometres in length – where speed will be reduced as two lanes will pare down to only one lane in each direction.

It’s unclear when passenger traffic would be allowed on the highway.

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