British Columbia has marked a key milestone in its efforts to restore transportation networks after a series of storms triggered devastating floods and landslides.
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming announced Thursday that Highway 1 had reopened through the Fraser Valley following closures in Abbotsford and in the Bridal Falls area.
Drivers can now, for the first time since Nov. 14, drive continuously on the freeway between Metro Vancouver and Hope.
“Talk about an all-hands-on-deck approach. This was one that went into the early hours of every morning and overnight to make this possible,” Fleming said.
“I can’t thank Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland residents enough for their patience over the past few days. I know it has been very hard on people and families.”
In Abbotsford, the freeway had been closed while crews had built a temporary “tiger dam” to prevent the latest round of storm-driven flooding from reaching the beleaguered Sumas Prairie.
The other three-kilometre stretch between Popkum and Hope had been closed due to the risk of slides and debris flow, and as a precaution while BC Hydro released water from a nearby reservoir.
Fleming said it would remain reduced to two lanes with traffic control through the latter area for several additional days.
Reopening the Trans-Canada Highway will take pressure off Highway 7 on the north side of the the Fraser River, which had been acting as the only corridor for commercial travel between Metro Vancouver and the B.C. Interior.
Traffic in and out of the Lower Mainland will still need to use Highway 3 beyond the Fraser Valley to reach the Interior, with Highway 1 and the Coquihalla Highway still closed due to significant storm damage.
Further complicating matters, Highway 3 was also closed east of Princeton, Thursday, due to flooding, meaning drivers must detour via Highway 5A to reach the Okanagan or Thompson-Nicola regions.
“We’re not back to driving normal yet. I want to stress that,” Fleming said.
“We are relying on British Columbians to abide by fuel restrictions, and so I would just take this opportunity (to tell those) that those of us who live in the southern province, if your travel is not necessary, please don’t be out there just yet.”
As of Thursday, there was no timeline to fully reopen Highway 1 between Hope and Cache Creek, while repairs to the Coquihalla are expected to take at least until the end of January.