First Nation builds tunnel under highway after death of young mother
Pedestrian tunnel under Route 102 through Kingsclear is expected to be completed by Christmas
A pedestrian tunnel on Kingclear First Nation is now under construction, just 10 weeks after a young woman from the community was struck and killed trying to cross Route 102.
A concrete tunnel will go underneath the road, which used to be the Trans-Canada Highway and cuts through the community.
"We have to do this," said Chief Gabriel Atwin. "Unfortunately, it should have been done quite some time ago."
Alysha Paul, 27, was struck by a pickup truck the night of Sept. 7 while trying to cross the highway in the dark.
Atwin said the death of the mother of three was needless and sparked the community to start the project.
"And we've had some tragic events prior," he said Atwin. "We've had car accidents before, and we had a pedestrian hit last year. Survived it, but you just can't have that.
"You can't have people running across a highway with a speed of 100 kilometres an hour."
A cross covered with flowers, wreaths, and cards sits on the side of the road where Paul was killed, just metres away from where construction has begun. A billboard with her picture, urging motorists to slow down, stands farther along the road.
Route 102 is closed until the project is completed. A detour through the lower half of Kingsclear First Nation is in place.
Atwin said the tunnel is to cross under the highway at an angle, and fences will be installed to funnel foot traffic onto a pathway leading to the crossing.
The tunnel will be three metres high and three metres wide and well-lit, he said. There will be deterrents to prevent all-terrain-vehicles from using it.
"Right now, we have what's called a joint venture," Atwin said. "Kingsclear and Dexter Construction. Also using Dylan Consultants to oversee the project."
Atwin said he hopes the province will contribute, possibly with maintenance costs and upkeep of the tunnel once it's completed.
The province did give the project the green light when the project was proposed in the fall.
"It's Kingsclear that's taking initiative," said Jeremy Trevors, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. "DTI is collaborating on the project."
Atwin said he expects the tunnel to be completed before Christmas. The next step will be to pressure government to lower the speed limit in the area as well.