Highline Road gets new bridge 

Provincial government, crown corporations pitch in

You can drive from D’Arcy to Seton Portage again, and all parts in between, thanks to the co-operation of crown corporations and the work of Yale-Lillooet MLA Dave Chutter.

When the bridge over McGillivray Creek collapsed last September under the weight of B.C. Hydro machinery, the residents of Seton Portage and property owners along the west side of Anderson Lake lost the only road that connects D’Arcy and Seton Portage.

The loss of route, which takes about an hour to drive, meant that people would have to take the long way around, via Lillooet, which would take about four hours. The local Chamber of Commerce also felt the loss of the bridge would have spelled disaster for their growing tourism industry.

The problem for local residents was that none of the provincial ministries or crown corporations wanted to take responsibility for replacing the bridge, because that would have meant assuming responsibility for maintaining and insuring the road in the future.

The Ministry of Forests, which originally built the road, had no need for the route any longer and earlier in the year had announced plans to either privatize or decommission the bulk of B.C. Forest Service Roads as a cost-saving measure.

B.C. Hydro, which used the road to service power lines, had no interest in maintaining the route, being able to handle most service and repairs by helicopter.

The Ministry of Transportation did not want to take responsibility because the road would then have to be rebuilt and maintained to ministry standards, which are higher, and therefore more expensive, than those required of a forestry road.

After the bridge collapsed, local residents and businesses held a meeting with the Kamloops Regional District, the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of Forests, Land and Water B.C., and B.C. Hydro to discuss the future of the road. While they were discouraged that none of these organizations would take responsibility, they did make some progress. The Ministry of Forests sold residents a $50,000 bridge, that was sitting in a yard in Lillooet, for one dollar.

Getting it installed took a little longer.

According to Ray Klassen, owner of the Highline Pub and Restaurant and the president of the Seton Portage-Shalalth District Chamber of Commerce, the bridge finally went in last week.

"It worked out really nicely for us. It took a bit of arm-twisting, but once (MLA) David Chutter got involved, he looked after it for us," said Klassen.

"Having the road back open really boosts local business, and has given us the ability to move around again. Of course, the safety factor was a big motivation because if we had some problem and the Mission Mountain route was closed, like the fire we had last year, there’s no other way out of the valley."

Although the local cottage and tourism industry is just starting to take off, it wouldn’t exist at all without the bridge, says Klassen.

The Ministry of Transportation agreed to pay an estimated $20,000 to install the bridge, but the organizations involved have not yet reached an arrangement on who will take responsibility for the Highline Road.

"We have not decided as of yet, but our intent was to leave the discussion until later, and just get the bridge in first and my priority was to work on that," said Chutter, who has been involved since the bridge collapsed.

"Certainly my office received a lot of calls when the bridge when out, and at the time we had a traffic counter that showed there was definitely a use for that road, and realized that the alternative could be considered dangerous."

According to Chutter, a counter found that more than 1,000 vehicles were using the road each month during the summer season.

"Local businesses and residents really got the ball rolling, and got everyone involved. I’m glad this has worked out for them," Chutter said.


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