BC expands highway travel restrictions while tallying Coquihalla damage

Nov 24 2021, 12:13 am

BC is expanding its restrictions on non-essential travel on Highway 7 while its road network remains debilitated following a record-breaking storm last weekend.

Highway 7 between Merritt and Agassiz will be restricted to essential travel only starting Tuesday at 8 pm, officials announced at a news conference. The closure will begin at Murray Street Road in Mission and is intended to give commuters enough time to return home Tuesday evening.

“It is imperative that we give priority to our essential supply chain, and this is the way that we can do that,” Transport Minister Rob Fleming said.

Right now, there is only one route for transport trucks from Metro Vancouver to the Interior. It’s along Highway 7 to Hope and then on Highway 3.

“As we continue to work to reopen Highway 1, we need to ensure that the supply chain can move with limited disruption, whether it’s milk trucks, fuel trucks, or fuel deliveries,” Fleming said. “These essential goods are struggling right now to get through some of the congestion we’re seeing in the Lower Mainland.”

The province is updating its definition of essential vehicles to include public transit, charter buses, school buses, and buses transporting workers.

What qualifies as essential travel?

Sections of Highway 99, Highway 7, and Highway 3 are only open to essential travellers right now. Here is a list of reasons deemed essential:

  • 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
  • Evacuations
  • Urgent medical treatment
  • Highway repair or maintenance
  • Transporting essential personnel
  • Returning to a person’s own principal residence
  • Indigenous people exercising treaty rights

Detailed Coquihalla update coming

bc flooding highway

Coquihalla Highway repair work at Jessica Bridge (BC Ministry of Transportation/Flickr)

The Coquihalla Highway is the fastest route to several parts of the Interior from Vancouver and is an essential lane for shipping goods. Huge chunks of the road were ripped away in the storm, and Fleming said a full update on the status of the Coquihalla will be coming soon.

On Tuesday, he confirmed engineers are being flown in to several collapsed bridges, and said there are at least five sites that are significantly damaged or degraded.

“We’ll have more to say once engineering staff look at temporary and long-term repairs,” Fleming said.

Significant damage to Highway 8

Highway 8

Highway 8 damage near Spence’s Bridge. (BC Ministry of Transportation/Flickr)

A provincial assessment of Highway 8, which connects Merritt to Spence’s Bridge, found at least 18 sections with substantial damage. Four bridges are either completely gone or in need of significant repair.

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