British Columbia

Province installs new fencing system along Highway 1 in area notorious for rock falls

The new rock fall fencing system along Highway 1 west of Revelstoke is meant to withstand damage caused by snow loading, small rocks and debris.

'It's a great start to a big problem,' says Revelstoke resident

The recently installed fencing system along Highway 1 is 122 metres long and is meant to protect vehicles from small rocks and debris that fall down the slope. (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced it has installed a new rock fall fencing system along Highway 1 west of Revelstoke in the Three Valley Gap.

The 122-metre long fence has five-metre posts and a network of steel cables anchored six metres deep into the rock. The fence is meant to withstand damage caused by avalanche activity, small rocks and other debris, the ministry said in a statement.

"For years, people travelling through Three Valley Gap have had ongoing concerns with falling rock," said Claire Trevena, minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.

"Next to the Kicking Horse Canyon, this may be the most challenging section of the Trans-Canada Highway in B.C., from a geotechnical perspective. Weather conditions amplify rock fall activity in the Three Valley Gap area, the majority of which originates from the high, natural slopes above the rock cut," the ministry told CBC in an email.

The fencing was designed in Europe specifically for this section of the highway, the ministry said. 

Problem area

Almost two years ago, Revelstoke resident Shannon Smith was seriously injured when her car was crushed by three large boulders that fell from the mountainside as she drove through the Three Valley Gap.

Three large boulders crushed the front of Shannon Smith's car while she was driving on Highway 1 in October of 2017. (Ian Smith)

Smith survived, but in May of 2018 she started a letter writing campaign to the province to try to get safety measures added to that stretch of the highway.

Smith is pleased that the new fence has been installed, she told Radio West host Sarah Penton.

"I think it's a great start to a big problem," she said.

More needed, says Smith

However, the boulders that fell on Smith's car came from an area of the mountain above the current fence, she said.

"[The fence] wouldn't have stopped what happened to me," said Smith. 

The new fencing is designed to protect travellers from smaller rock fall, which is more common in the area, the ministry said in an email.

Last fall, a 33-metre long, lock-block retention wall was installed to address the area where large boulder events have occurred, they added.

"Driving through there now, having that fencing there, I can see that the rocks are being caught by the fencing," said Smith.

"They are dropping into the ditches, they're not actually coming out on the roads anymore as often. It still happens, but it's not as often."

Smith would still like to see the province explore some other options, such as a tunnel for the area.

"I know in the past that there have been surveys done to actually change the highway itself," she said. "They have looked at snow shed and I have been told that the road base itself isn't strong enough to withhold a snow shed. So I don't know what the government can do, but they sure need to look at something."

With files from Radio West