Calgary

Closure of Trans-Canada Highway up to 15 weeks a year doesn't worry Golden and Radium mayors

Planned construction for the Trans-Canada Highway is going to make the trek to Golden, B.C. more difficult for drivers in 2020 -- but the mayors of Golden and Radium say that the pros significantly outweigh the cons.

Trans-Canada closure will make driving to Golden difficult, but mayors say safety, tourism pros outweigh cons

The Trans-Canada Highway upgrade will include twinning a dangerous stretch of road to make it safer. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

Planned construction for the Trans-Canada Highway is going to make the trek to Golden, B.C., more difficult for drivers in 2020 — but the mayors of that community and nearby Radium say that the pros significantly outweigh the cons. 

The infamously dangerous hairpin section of the Kicking Horse Pass just east of Golden is going to be twinned, and starting in 2020, it could be closed for up to 15 weeks a year to allow for safer and faster construction.

According to the B.C. ministry of transportation, the section sees three times as many crashes as similar stretches of B.C. highway.

For Golden Mayor Ron Oszust, the potential disruption caused by the closure is worth it if the project is finished quickly and more safely.

"People are realizing that although it's going to be inconvenient and it could be a longer travel time, [closing the highway] would expedite the project extensively," Oszust told the Calgary Eyeopener guest host Doug Dirks on Monday. 

"It is a large project and it's in a very unstable rock area, and by virtue of having these closures, they can get the project done quickly and get back to a wonderful four-lane highway, that will be safe for everyone."

Dangerous section sees heavy traffic 

As many as 10,000 vehicles pass through the stretch of highway each day, and those heading to Golden during the closures will be forced to detour south, through Radium. 

Clara Reinhardt, Radium's mayor, says that plans to manage the increased volume of traffic that will be moving through the city are already being developed.

"Of course, the people of Radium are concerned about a number of things — the level of traffic coming through, how we're going to manage the traffic coming through our four-way stop," Reinhardt said. 

"There [are] concerns about parking, there [are] concerns about policing, there [are] concerns about emergency services. But I am happy to report that there's a lot of conversations happening and … all the right partners are at the table."

The construction will improve a four-kilometre stretch of highway through Kicking Horse Canyon east of Golden, B.C. — pictured here. (Government of B.C.)

Mayors face business, wildlife challenges

Other considerations for Radium, Reinhardt says, include coordinating with businesses to be ready to handle for those who are diverted through the town.

"Many of our business operators head south for the winter, and so we will be working really closely with them to encourage them to stay open longer, and open sooner, during those times where the traffic is coming through," said Reinhardt.

Both Reinhardt and Oszust are trying to mitigate the impact that the construction will have on surrounding wildlife, which they say has involved consulting with wildlife groups and making the public aware of animals who inhabit the area. 

"The sheep are there, [so] we're just going to have to really encourage people to slow down [and] enjoy the ride," Reinhardt said.

Reinhardt says she is hopeful that ultimately, a higher number of visitors passing through Radium will boost tourism in the city.

"We anticipate that there will be people coming through [Radium] that maybe have never even heard of us … and they'll take a look and say, 'Wow, who knew this was here'," Reinhardt said.

Oszust is also optimistic about the impact of the construction on Golden's economy, and expects to see job opportunities for locals come out of the project.

"It's going to add to the economy and the community," Oszust said. "They're saying up to 200 workers at the peak of the construction, so it'll put locals to work."

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