B.C. rock slide that closed Trans-Canada costs trucking industry $75K a day

Supplies are running low for some people in the Field, B.C., area where a huge rock slide that came down on the Trans-Canada Highway Monday isn’t expected to be cleared away until Thursday evening.

'Our food delivery service couldn't make it through yesterday,' says hotel chef

Efforts to clear the highway have been hampered by poor weather. Authorities had hoped to reopen the Trans-Canada Highway to single-lane, alternating traffic Thursday evening. (Parks Canada)

A rock slide that has blocked the Trans-Canada Highway since Monday in B.C. west of Banff National Park is costing the trucking industry an estimated $75,000 a day and making life difficult for people who work in the area.

The highway has been closed in both directions at the slide about 16 km west of Field in Yoho National Park since contractors preparing holes for rock blasting triggered the slide, which send two to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

It's expected to take until early Thursday evening for crews to clear away enough of the roughly 10,000 cubic metres of rock and debris to grade and pave the gravel shoulder, which would let authorities reopen the roadway to single-lane, alternating traffic.  

For now, travellers heading to B.C. are being redirected at Castle Junction in Banff National Park, heading southwest on Highway 93 through Kootenay National Park to Radium and then north on Highway 95 to meet the Trans-Canada again at Golden.

Truck driver Dan Bosje says staying on schedule is critical for his industry: 'Everything we do is on a schedule and something like road closures just makes it even worse.' (Andrew Brown/CBC)

For commercial truckers, it's an unwelcome detour that wracks up another 100 kilometres through mountainous terrain.

Andrew Barnes of the Alberta Motor Transport Association says the closure is expensive for his industry.

"It is affecting about 400 trucks a day and the trucks are taking the recommended south detour, which is about an hour-and-a-half. When you convert that to economics, we are looking at about $75,000 a day to industry," he said.

"It's an inconvenience but nothing that our industry hasn't dealt with before. We are very good at adapting to these types of things."

Truck driver Dan Bosje says road closures can cause huge problems for his industry as they are on tight schedules.

"It is really important. Everything we do is on a schedule and something like road closures just makes it even worse," Bosje told CBC News from Calgary's Roadking Truck Stop.

It's also taking a toll in Field, where supplies are running low.

Everett Cooper, the chef at the Truffle Pig Bistro and Lodge in Field, says he's likely losing about $2,000 a day in sales from the road closure. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Everett Cooper, the chef at the Truffle Pig Bistro and Lodge in Field, says he and his staff feel a bit trapped.

"It's hard. The hotel slows right down, this is traditionally our slower time of year," he said.

"Our food delivery service couldn't make it through yesterday, so our food supplies get low and we just deal the best we can."

He says it's just a matter of making the best of the situation.

"We basically try and prepare as best we can. Consider the option of closing down the restaurant. We don't get food deliveries when the road is closed. Try and make do with what we have, prioritize. Still try and take care of the customer," Cooper explained.

He estimates he is losing about $2,000 per day in sales.

"You just have to put up with it, deal with it. The roads to Vancouver close all of the time, once you get into the snow. The Coquihalla and Rogers Pass close on a regular basis, so it is something we are kind of used to in a way."

Heavy-duty trucks have been brought in to carry away the rocks that are blocking the Trans-Canada Highway near Field, B.C. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Single lane to open Thursday

Parks Canada hopes to have a single lane opened by Thursday evening.

"Work has begun to stabilize the rock face, and geotechnical assessments are ongoing to ensure the safety of personnel as they work to clear and re-open the highway. The existing outside gravel shoulder will be graded and paved Thursday, which will allow single lane alternating traffic to begin moving through the site by early evening," the agency said in a release late Wednesday.

The paved lane will remain in place over the winter and will allow for eventual two-way traffic at a date to be determined later in the week.

The route in blue shows the detour after a rock slide closed a section of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Field, B.C., on Monday. (Google Maps)