A representative of Parks Canada breaks down an information chart for a Golden resident at the open house information session held in Golden on Feb. 5. (Claire Palmer - Star Photo)

Parks Canada begins public consultations to twin Trans Canada Highway in Yoho National Park

The project, which is just in the assessment phase, will be looking to secure funding shortly.

Parks Canada is seeking public input about its proposed plan to twin the remaining 40 kilometre section of the Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park.

The federal agency is holding public consulations until Feb. 28 to get public feed about the environmental impact the project could have on the national park.

“Over the last three years we’ve been doing field work and collecting plants and samples, and now we’re undertaking a consultation with the Ktunaxa and Shuswap,” said Terry McGuire, the project coordinator Parks Canada at an information session recently held in Golden.

READ MORE: Kicking Horse Canyon Project Phase 4 team presents highway closure plan to Golden

According to McGuire, the assessment has culminated in a 650 page environmental assessment, which is what they are now seeking feedback on through open houses like the one in Golden, as well as online.

At the end of the public consultation period, the planner will take the information before finalizing its detailed impact analysis report. The project is expected to cost around $400 million and will be completed over the next eight to 10 years.

“The assessment helps determine what we are proposing in the way of mitigation and minimizing the impact it will have,” said McGuire.

The project envisions building a four-lane highway with a divider and adding 16 under passes or overpasses to protect wildlife.

Once completed, the highway will be much safer for travellers and reduce closure times caused by vehicle accidents.

McGuire said safety is a key goal of the project because that stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway experiences three per cent more vehicle acccidents than the rest of the highway.

“The highway was built in the 60s and people didn’t drive at 100 kilometre and an hour,” said McGuire. “We have three goals to the project, and one is overall traffic safety and another is to reduce wildlife mortality, and the final is improve efficiency of the transportation system.”

While the project is still in its infancy with no alloted funding, McGuire says it’s hard to pin down a firm timeline for when construction will officially start.

Right now, he says that the plan is to do it in segments in order to minimize the amount of delays. When contruction does finally get started it will begin at the west end of the 40 km stretch, close to Golden. There is the potential for the project to overlap with phase four of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project, which McGuire said they have planned for.

When construction begins, McGuire said there will be minimal delays and road closures due to the fact that construction will primarily take place directly next to the road, meaning lengthy closures won’t be necessary.

That being said, there will be times when the highway will need to be closed for rock re-profiling and blasting.

He said the closures will primarily be taking place in the eastern end of the project, closer to Field Hill, and that they will be trying to coordinate closures in order to ensure that travellers aren’t stuck in multiple closures in one day.

“The area with the potential blasting and 90 minute delays is at the very east end,” said McGuire. “By the time work is started in the Canyon, those delays could be forecasted years in the future anyways.”

All information presented at the open house is available at the Parks Canada website.

The review period ends on Feb. 28.

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