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Coquihalla reopens to commercial vehicles only; Highway 3 restrictions to lift Tuesday

Repairs are temporary; expect reduced speed limits
Paving continues throughout the day and night in prep for the reopening of Highway 5 to commercial vehicles and intercity bus service after earlier severe flood damage.

The Coquihalla Highway has reopened between Hope and Merritt after a month of extensive repairs in the wake of unprecedented flooding and landslide damage.

The highway is open to essential commercial vehicles only.

The Coquihalla was closed by multiple washouts on Nov. 14. For a time, the storm that caused the damage closed every route to the coast from the Southern Interior.

More than 300 workers using 200 pieces of equipment moved more than 400,000 cubic metres of gravel, rock, and other material to repair and reopen the highway in just 35 days.

The province notes the repairs to the Coquihalla are temporary, with travel pattern changes and reduced speed limits in place.

"The people who build and maintain roads in B.C. have a reputation second to none, and their response to the recent disaster has been remarkable," Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in a press release Monday.

"Ministry teams, maintenance contractors and hundreds of workers going flat out in challenging conditions have allowed us to reopen the Coquihalla Highway today, giving B.C.'s commercial drivers a safe, efficient route between the coast and Interior."

Effective today, the highway is open to commercial vehicles with a minimum licensed gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 11,794 kilograms.

With most commercial vehicles moving over to Highway 5, travel restrictions will be lifted from Highway 3 at 8 a.m. Tuesday, allowing the route between Hope and Princeton to be used for non-essential travel.

"Having use of the Coquihalla Highway brings more predictability to the movement of goods through British Columbia," said Dave Earle, president and CEO, BC Trucking Association. "This an important step toward restoring our supply chain, and our members appreciate the extraordinary efforts of everyone involved."

Flooding and washouts associated with the November storm damaged more than 20 sites on the Coquihalla, including seven bridges where spans completely collapsed or were otherwise heavily damaged.

Travel restrictions have also been lifted on Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet. However, vehicles over 14,500 kg GVW are still not permitted.

"Today's reopening of the Coquihalla Highway is a testament to the strong working relationship between the BC Road Builders and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure," said Kelly Scott, president, BC Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association. "This relationship allowed the road builder industry and government to come together almost immediately, unified in the goal of reopening this vital link. We are grateful for all the women and men who worked safely and tirelessly around the clock to achieve our goal. "

The ministry urges preparation and patience on Highway 3 once restrictions are lifted. Drivers can expect delays and congestion and are encouraged to avoid highway travel unless necessary.