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Third phase of Kicking Horse Canyon project nears completion

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by Jean Sorensen

Phase 3 of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project (KHCP), British Columbia's second largest highway build will be ready for traffic by fall - an estimated six months before the scheduled March 2012 completion date.
third phase of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project
third phase of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project

Phase 3 of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project (KHCP), British Columbia's second largest highway build will be ready for traffic by fall - an estimated six months before the scheduled March 2012 completion date.

The third phase costs $120.89 million and increases the total length of improvements to 21 out of the 26 kilometres.

It has two portions of construction: the Brake Check to Yoho Park segment (known as Phase 3 East) and the Golden Hill to West Portal (canyon entrance) section of highway, which is known as Phase 3 West.

“There has been an amazing effort by the contractor and the teams working on this project,” said Murray Tekano, KHCP senior project manager for the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

The western portion of Phase 3, which moves into the town of Golden, is actually 12 months ahead of schedule with crews over-lapping their work to get ahead.

“We will be substantially complete by fall,” he said.

This means that motorists can drive on the western portion of the highway upgrade, but with some caution.

The eastern upgrade is already complete and being used by motorists.

One contract remains and is out for tender for the Kilometre Four Wall construction, near the West Portal of the western stretch.

The wall work is expected to be done next year.

Crews have worked through challenging conditions, such as maintaining traffic flow and also ensuring that highway work didn’t impact the railway line below.

The completion of Phase 3, leaves only Phase 4 to complete, but it is the most costly and possibly the most treacherous.

“Kicking Horse is a tough highway project. What we are looking for is really the most cost effective means,” said Tekano.

The 26 kilometres of highway improvements done over four phases is costing less than $1 billion, as it traverses over some of the most challenging terrain in the Canadian highway system.

There have been few improvements since the highway was constructed in the l950s.

“I always lament the railways, they had the best alignment,” said Tekano.

The rail companies often went into an area first.

“When we built the highways, we had the second best alignment,” he said.

The improved 26 kilometres of highway, which is being upgraded to a 100 kilometre roadway with new bridges, four-lanes, truck turnouts and bicycle paths, still follows roughly the same early alignment, except in the last phase.

The first two phases of construction looked at highway improvements and bridge replacements and upgrades.

Phase 3’s Brake Check to Yoho Park construction began in the fall of 2008, under contract to Ledcor CMI Ltd. and is finished.

Completed improvements include four new lanes with concrete median barrier, a new crossing of Mt. Hunter Creek, an overpass arrangement at Wapta/Beaverfoot Road, widened shoulders to accommodate cyclists, plus two wildlife crossings and wildlife fencing.

The 3.8-km Golden Hill to West Portal section includes looking at grade reduction on the hill, an overpass at Golden Donald Upper Road (now open), improved cycling and pedestrian access, wildlife fencing and a special wildlife crossing, as girders were placed in late August.

It also extends a fourth lane of the Trans-Canada Highway through to the signals at Highway 95.

The Golden Hill to West Portal section is being carried out by Emil Anderson Construction Ltd. The fourth lane extension was constructed from May to October 2009 on Golden Hill using local hired equipment and a major paving contract awarded to Dawson Construction of Kamloops.

“We are working within the town of Golden – the Trans-Canada goes through Golden – and the work is tearing out the old four lanes and realigning it,” said Tekano, adding that connectors to existing town roads are also being constructed.

The last upgrade Phase 4, West Portal to Yoho Bridge, is only five kilometres, but is costing $630.5 million, of which one kilometre is an interchange.

The other four kilometres will challenge B.C.’s construction crews.

“This is the section where we are realigning the highway through what is the most tortured portion,” said Tekano.

The design calls for two side-by-side 340-metre and 210-metre tunnels, six hazard protection sheds and up to 12 bridges.

“It is the last of that corridor and there is nothing like it on the Trans Canada.” said Tekano, who has been in the industry for 30 years.

“I haven’t seen anything this bad or challenging.”

Phase 4 requires a cost-sharing agreement with the federal government to proceed with construction.

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