Nearly a year after heavy rains and floods washed away more than 25 sections, Highway 8 has now reopened to all vehicular traffic.
The atmospheric river flowing into British Columbia in November 2021 resulted in the complete closure of the highway between Merritt and Spencer Bridge for 361 days. More than seven kilometers of highways were completely washed away.
“From day one of Atmospheric Rivers, people have gone out of their way to help us reach this important milestone,” said British Columbia Transport and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming. “We are all so grateful for the impressive work the staff and crew are doing to reconnect people and communities along Highway 8.”
Many Thompson Nicola area communities, including Nooaitch, Shackan and Cook’s Ferry First Nations, were quarantined due to highway closures.
“It’s a 750-year event,” said Nooaitch Indian Band chief Marcel Shackelly. “No one has ever seen anything like this alive.”
With many parties coming together to reopen the highway, more than 30 percent of the workers on the project are Aboriginal.
“The International Union of Operational Engineers, Local 115, is proud of the work our members are doing in reopening Highway 8,” said Brian Cochrane, operations manager for IUOE Local 115. “We are committed to rebuilding the province’s highways and working across all of our Support local and Aboriginal communities in projects. “
“There used to be trade routes…not anymore. We now rely on highways” – Arnold Lamplow, Chief Shackan Indian Band pic.twitter.com/SPmy1Zs6Bt
— Jake Courtpat (@JakeC_16) November 9, 2022
Despite the reopening of all traffic, many repairs are temporary, and parts of the highway will remain an active construction area to install barricades, stabilize embankments and continue with permanent repairs. As a result, temporary closures and traffic delays sometimes occur. Reduced speed limits will be in effect and road surfaces will change on some sections.
As the highway remains an active construction area, it is not suitable for a detour if the Trans-Canada Highway (HWY 1) or the Coquihalla Highway (HWY 5) are closed. If any of these highways are closed, Highway 8 will only allow limited access to residents.
Of the 25 highways demolished in Atmospheric Rivers last year, another 5 were demolished during the summer due to additional washout.
To help reconnect the highway, two temporary bridges have been constructed, an 85-meter single-lane bridge and a 73-meter two-lane bridge.
Conservation teams at the scene rescued more than 5,000 fish and returned them to the Nikolai River. Crews will remain on site to monitor fish and vegetation along the highway.
The province’s winter tire regulations and chain regions remain in effect.
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