Recreational travel restricted in BC as highways devastated by floods, mudslides
BC officials announced new travel restrictions Friday aimed at keeping drivers off its devastated highway system while assessment and repairs are underway.
Drivers should only be on the road to transport essential goods such as food, water, fuel, and medical or agricultural supplies, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said during a Friday news conference.
Checkpoints will be in place on the roads to enforce the restrictions. The order goes into force immediately.
The order applies to the hardest hit highways including Highway 99, Highway 7, and Highway 3. Not all of them are open yet, but these areas will be restricted when they do:
- Highway 3: from the junction of Highway 5 and Highway 3 in Hope to the west entrance to Princeton from Highway 3.
- Highway 7: from the junction of Highway 7 and Highway 9 in Agassiz to the junction of Highway 7 and Highway 1 in Hope.
Neither the Trans Canada nor the Coquihalla will reopen for some time because huge sections were washed away by mudslides. They are not included in the order.
Highway 3 reopened only to essential vehicles on Friday, and Highway 99 opened to essential traffic on Saturday, November 20.
The Highway 7 to Highway 3 route via Hope is the first connection between the Lower Mainland and the Interior to open since routes were cut off in a record-breaking storm this weekend.
What qualifies as essential travel?
Here is a complete list of reasons that qualify as essential travel, and are exempted from the order:
- Commercially transporting goods
- Transporting food, water, fuel, gasoline, personal hygiene, sanitation, and cleaning products, or healthcare and pharmaceutical supplies
- Transporting livestock, agricultural, or seafood products/supplies
- Responding to emergencies, including search and rescue
- Urgent medical treatment
- Highway repair or maintenance
- Transporting essential personnel
- Returning to a person’s own principal residence
- Indigenous people exercising treaty rights
Officials also announced restrictions on buying gasoline, because the Trans Mountain pipeline being closed for several days has chocked fuel supplies in Southern BC.
Officials said they are working to bring in additional fuel from Alberta, Washington, Oregon, and California.
But for the next 10 to 12 days, people in Southern BC are limited to only filling up 30 litres at the gas station. The rules to not apply to essential drivers, including paramedics and trucks, who use card-lock stations.
This is the second time this year that British Columbians have faced travel restrictions preventing them from driving around the province. Last winter, officials forbid travel between health regions to reduce COVID-19 transmission.