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B.C.’s Coquihalla Highway set to reopen Dec. 20 for commercial travel, buses

Click to play video: 'B.C. floods: Coquihalla Highway to reopen on December 20th' B.C. floods: Coquihalla Highway to reopen on December 20th
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming has announced that the Coquihalla Highway will be reopened to essential traffic such as commercial trucks and inter-city buses no later than the end of the day on December 20th. Aaron McArthur has the details – Dec 15, 2021

The Coquihalla Highway is set to reopen on Dec. 20, well ahead of the previously announced timeline.

The reopening, which will be by the end of that day, will be for commercial vehicles only and inter-city buses and will have areas of reduced speeds to ensure driver safety.

It is not known when it will open to all traffic.

Click to play video: 'Coquihalla Highway set to reopen to essential travel on Dec. 20' Coquihalla Highway set to reopen to essential travel on Dec. 20
Coquihalla Highway set to reopen to essential travel on Dec. 20 – Dec 15, 2021

The reopening of the Coquihalla, Highway 5, will allow the province to remove the essential designation from Highway 3. The goal is to have Highway 3 reopen for all travel 24 hours after reopening the Coquihalla.

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But the province will also be advising people against travel as normal, citing road conditions and rising COVID-19 cases.

The Coquihalla Highway, B.C.’s main link between the Lower Mainland and the Interior, has been shut down between Merritt and Hope since the first atmospheric river hit the province in mid-November.

Repairs are underway as the highway suffered extensive damage with sections of roads and bridges washed away.

When it re-opens to essential traffic, it will not be the same highway as before and travel will take longer, Paula Cousins with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said Monday.

Some sections will be four lanes but some will be two lanes, with just one lane in each direction.

Click to play video: 'B.C. floods: Coquihalla Highway scope of work and repair timeline' B.C. floods: Coquihalla Highway scope of work and repair timeline
B.C. floods: Coquihalla Highway scope of work and repair timeline – Nov 25, 2021

Cousins said it is expected a journey through the repaired section will take about 45 minutes longer than `normal in optimal weather conditions.

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There will be no power along the highway so there will be limited lighting and the variable speed system will not be in service, Cousins added.

In addition, there will be portable toilets along the route but washrooms will not be open.

There will also be reduced speed limits — 100 km/h in four-lane sections and 60 km/h in two-lane sections, Cousins said.

Chains will be required along the route during the winter months and drivers should expect more RCMP enforcement.

Click to play video: 'Repairs underway on Coquihalla Highway, officials confident with January reopening timeline' Repairs underway on Coquihalla Highway, officials confident with January reopening timeline
Repairs underway on Coquihalla Highway, officials confident with January reopening timeline – Dec 10, 2021

About 20 sites are impacted along the route with about 130 kilometres of the road needing repairs.

“It’s really been a number of spectacular weeks of recovery reuniting every part of B.C., getting supply chains activated,” said B.C. Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming last week.

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“It’s a result of a collaboration with the federal government, the local government and the First Nations government.”

Read more: Repairs underway on Coquihalla Highway, officials confident with January reopening timeline

Repair crews have been working 24 hours a day since the initial damage, according to the Ministry of Transportation.

There are more than 300 workers on the recovery project.

Click to play video: 'First look at Coquihalla repairs' First look at Coquihalla repairs
First look at Coquihalla repairs – Dec 10, 2021

— with files from Darrian Matassa-Fung

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