Major detours coming to popular mountain highway between Alberta, B.C

·4 min read
Drivers hoping to take Highway 1 from Alberta to B.C. will soon be rerouted to either Highway 93 south or 95 south. (Dave Will/CBC - image credit)
Drivers hoping to take Highway 1 from Alberta to B.C. will soon be rerouted to either Highway 93 south or 95 south. (Dave Will/CBC - image credit)

The final phase of a massive, multi-year project improving a section of the Trans Canada Highway that will impact drivers and nearby communities for years to come, begins next month.

The Kicking Horse Canyon Phase 4 project will update about five kilometres of road through a rugged and difficult section of Highway 1 between the town of Golden, B.C. and the Yoho Bridge.

"It is by some of our contractors accounts one of the most geotechnically challenging projects they've ever seen," said Mike Lorimer, the executive project director for the Kicking Horse Canyon Phase 4 project.

The work in the canyon will include widening the highway to four lanes, realigning multiple curves, and installing infrastructure for wildlife protection, like corridors and fences.

The Trans-Canada Highway upgrade will include twinning a dangerous stretch of road to make it safer.
The Trans-Canada Highway upgrade will include twinning a dangerous stretch of road to make it safer.(B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

Major detours

Construction on the highway will severely hamper traffic flow, and some will shutdown the road completely for lengths of time.

Traffic is already affected by the project, with delays of up to 30 minutes, and by the end of March there could be overnight closures of up to nine hours.

The first total shutdown of that highway comes between April 12 and May 14. Motorists will then have to detour via Highway 93 and Highway 95.

Following that, 24-hour closures will take place on weekdays between May 17th and May 31st.

"With this project, even though it's B.C., it has a huge impact on Alberta," said Lorimer.

Lorimer estimates it will take three years to complete the project, with a expected opening of Nov. 23rd, 2024.

The construction will improve a four-kilometre stretch of highway through Kicking Horse Canyon east of Golden, B.C. — pictured here.
The construction will improve a four-kilometre stretch of highway through Kicking Horse Canyon east of Golden, B.C. — pictured here. (Government of B.C.)

'Cautiously optimistic'

The detour, which cuts through Radium Hot Springs, will add about an hour and a half to the trip between the Castle Junction in Alberta and Golden, B.C.

The mountain village of 800 permanent residents will see upwards of 10,000 extra vehicles pass through each day for one month at a time, in April and November, in each of the next three years, says Lorimer.

Clara Reinhardt, the mayor of Radium says the village is "cautiously optimistic" about the influx of traffic coming their way.

Reinhardt says based on the modelling she's aware of, there will be "one extra vehicle per minute, depending on average flows."

In Golden, people are feeling trepidation about the coming changes, says mayor Ron Oszust.

"They're anxious, that's for sure. Optimism is there, but there's also caution and concern just by virtue of the volumes, " he said.

"We're just hoping that people will slow down, take the time to travel carefully and maybe even take the opportunity to stop in town and explore our community a little bit."

He sees this influx of vehicle traffic as a way to turn Golden into more than just a pit stop along the way to other destinations in B.C.

Erin Palashniuk, left, with the Radium Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce and Mike Gray, with Tourism Radium, both see increased traffic through their town as a tourism opportunity.
Erin Palashniuk, left, with the Radium Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce and Mike Gray, with Tourism Radium, both see increased traffic through their town as a tourism opportunity.(Dave Will/CBC)

Tourism uptick?

Erin Palashniuk who heads up the chamber of commerce in Radium Hot Springs, sees this captive audience on wheels as a real opportunity for the village.

Especially while COVID-19 has tourism on the back burner.

"It kind of puts our little community on the map a little bit more as far as tourism goes... there's so much to do here that people just aren't aware of," said Pashniuk.

Mike Gray, with Tourism Radium also sees it as a tourism boosting opportunity.

"We're filled with anticipation, we're filled with excitement. I think it's a great opportunity for us to show off what the Village or Radium Hot Springs is all about," he said.

Zakir Hayder operates one of Radium's three gas stations and hears from locals on both sides.

"Some, they think it's more traffic, it's more people, but if its more traffic, more people, more business too ... it's good for the town."

Project director Lorimer urgers people to check the road before they hop in their vehicles in coming months.

"We're going to ask for folks to plan accordingly. They're going to have to take a little more time to get there and just do it as safe as they can and not take any risks," he says.