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Coquihalla 'lifeline' between B.C. and rest of Canada to reopen in January

For the first time since the catastrophic, record-setting mid-November floods that destroyed homes and highways, both the federal and provincial transportation ministers got an on-the-ground view of the extensive damage to B.C.’s Coquihalla Highway on Friday.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be here at four in the morning,” said provincial minister Rob Fleming. “But that’s what the shift work is like right now.”

“Hearing it about it in theory, in pictures, is one thing,” said Fleming’s federal counterpart, Omar Alghabra. “Seeing it first hand on the ground is quite revealing.”

Along some 130 kilometres of Highway 5 that saw damage in 20 spots, journalists were given a glimpse of some of the most severe impacts, including at a place known as the Bottletop Bridge.

“The river eroded (the foundation), undermined it, and both spans here collapsed,” said Kevin Weicker with the Highway 5 response team.

Weicker pointed out the temporary fix to one span that had been completed.

Officials say they have the section of highway between Hope and Merritt slated for reopening – to commercial traffic only – in early January, if the weather cooperates.

“It won’t be like it was,” said Paula Cousins with the Ministry of Transportation, who led the media tour.

Cousins said there will be two 20-to-30-kilometre sections of highway where there will be only one lane traveling in each direction and at slower speeds.

Cousins estimated between 100 and 200 workers and 100 pieces of heavy equipment are working onsite 24 hours a day.

Some crews are working in the river itself to stop erosion and re-route the water after it channeled new paths during the flood.

“This is just one of those awesome examples of people and companies coming together – and we got what we needed,” Cousins said.

Fleming called the pace of the work “amazing.”

“It’s a lifeline between British Columbia and the rest of the country,” Fleming said. Top Stories

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