Coquihalla to reopen to regular vehicle traffic between Hope and Merrit

Coquihalla to reopen to regular vehicle traffic between Hope and Merrit

The B.C. government has announced that the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) will reopen to regular vehicle traffic between Hope and Merritt, starting on Wednesday.

The reopening of the highway will create a more convenient route for people who need to travel between the Lower Mainland and the Interior, having been closed since devastating storms hit back in November.

There are still ongoing repairs being carried out on damaged sections and temporary fixes are currently in place in order to reopen the road. The result, however, is that there will be travel-pattern changes and reduced speed limits, causing the trip between Hope and Merrit to take 45 minutes longer than normal.

During an announcement on Tuesday, the BC Government said that although the route will reopen, the high-mountain highway can experience adverse weather and the rapidly changing conditions could require another closure of the Coquihalla on minimal notice.

Electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations at Britton Creek are also still out of operation, making the nearest EV charging stations in Hope and Merritt.

The government adds that there will continue to be increased enforcement on this route to ensure drivers are obeying the traffic laws and driving according to conditions.

Highway 5 was closed to regular vehicle traffic since Nov. 14, 2021, due to damage caused by an atmospheric river event, but reopened to commercial vehicle traffic on Dec. 20, 2021. As a result of the severe weather, more than 20 sites along 130 kilometres of the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt were impacted, including seven bridges where spans completely collapsed or were otherwise heavily damaged.

Additionally, weight restrictions will be lifted from Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet, however, drivers of large commercial vehicles are discouraged from using this route because of the challenging terrain.

In the Fraser Canyon, Highway 1 has partially reopened from Kanaka Bar south of Lytton to Spences Bridge, but Highway 1 between Kanaka Bar and Hope remains closed.

“When Highway 1 in the Fraser Canyon reopens, drivers can expect lengthy delays with additional travel times as long as two hours or longer, depending on the destination,” reads a statement from the Ministry of Transportation. “Delays are a result of ongoing repairs, an at-grade train crossing, avalanche control and sections of single-lane alternating traffic, which includes a temporary single-lane bridge at the Jackass Mountain and Nicomen River crossing.”

The highway will be open to legal width and weight loading, but loads will be limited to 25 metres in length until the rehabilitation of the highway bridge at Nicomen River is completed.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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