Costs up, full highway closures planned for Trans-Canada Highway Kicking Horse project

Minster of Transportation Claire Trevena says the challenging nature of the work required means complete closure of the highway, traffic re-routes, during some phases of construction.

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The final and most challenging two-lane section of the Kicking Horse project is now being prepared for transformation into a four-lane highway. Photo: Flickr.com/Ministry of Transportation.

Completing the Trans-Canada Kicking Horse Canyon project east of Golden will mean complete closure of the highway for periods of time during construction, B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena said.

In a media announcement on Sept. 5, Trevena said the final and most challenging two-lane section of the Kicking Horse project is now being prepared for transformation into a four-lane highway. Three other sections have already been completed with more than 21 kilometers of roadway upgraded. The expected completion date for the fourth phase of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project is 2023/24.

“This final phase is the most challenging,” Trevena said. “Realigning and widening this section of highway to four lanes is a must.”

Technical challenges include a narrow, constrained and heavily traveled corridor. Large quantities of material will need to be excavated from steep, high and unstable slopes, while protecting the safety of crews, the travelling public and the CP Rail railway tracks below.In addition to widening the highway to four-lanes, the project will also see improved avalanche and rock-fall projection, fencing and passage for wildlife and wider shoulders to accommodate cyclists.

Ministry of Transportation to work with community liaison committee, key stakeholders on highway closures.

Trevena said the Ministry of Transportation is still working with the town of Golden on the dates and duration of the closures, including avoiding closures during peak travel times.

The plan to redirect traffic via Highway 95 and then onto Highway 93 has some concerned, as this means more vehicles driving over the Kicking Horse River Bridge. In particular there is a concern about increased traffic flow over the aging bridge, which the previous provincial government had said it planned to upgrade. Trevena said annual bridge inspections are completed and that she is confident the bridge will be safe for the future.

“We continue to work with the community on how we can best make sure there will be safe access there, and I have met with the mayor,” said Trevena.

The ministry also said it plans to work closely with local indigenous group to look at ways to protect areas of significant value. The Kicking Horse Area is the traditional territory of the Pespesellkwe (Shuswap Indian Band, Splatsin, Neskonlith Indian Band, Adams Lake Indian Band and Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band) of the Secwépemc Nation and the Ktunaxa Nation.

Project cost increases due to significant technical work, application of Community Benefits Agreements

The project’s price tag has also increased considerably rising from $450 million in 2016 to $601 million. The cost is shared with the federal government contributing up to $215.2 million through the provincial-territorial infrastructure component of the New Building Canada Fund. The province is providing the remaining $385.8 million.

Advanced technical work completed since the original project estimate in 2016 has determined the need for significant changes, said Trevena. Most of the projects cost increase is due to technical changes in the project scope, higher prices of materials and additional costs related to CP Rail protection, utility relocation, traffic management, technical project management support archaeological investigation, consultation with Indigenous groups and higher contingency based on the risk and complexity of the project.

A Community Benefits Agreement, that will put an emphasis on hiring local workers for the project, will take up $35 million of the project cost. This includes worker accommodations, equal wages and benefits and BC Infrastructure Benefits  (BCIB) administration costs. BCIB is the provincial Crown corporation that implements the CBA.

Trevena said it is estimated around 200 jobs will be available with a priority on hiring local workers with a focus on enhancing employment and training.

“BC is facing a major skilled worker shortage. This program seeks to address at very least this industry’s challenge,” she said.

A start date on the final phase of the Kicking Horse project has not been announced. An invitation for bidders to submit their qualifications to design and build the project was released Sept. 5.

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