Province announces $12 million to improve Duffey 

Two days after tending to a massive rockslide on the Sea to Sky Highway, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon was whisked back to the corridor to announce the province is spending $12 million to improve Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet.

Speaking from the Bridge of the 23 Camels near Lillooet, Falcon told a news conference that a $5.2 million contract had been awarded for the construction of a two-lane concrete bridge 13 km south of Lillooet, as well as a $7.1 million contract for paving an area north of Pemberton.

The proposed improvements will replace a single-lane bridge with a two-lane one that will carry people across Cayoosh Creek. It is the fourth bridge to cross if heading south towards Pemberton and is known as “First Crossing” within Lillooet.

"The Cayoosh Creek #4 Bridge is one of several single-lane timber bridges on Highway 99 between Lillooet and Duffey Lake scheduled for replacement," Falcon said in a news release.

"The new two-lane concrete bridge will improve safety and mobility for local residents and the tourists who use this route."

The paving, meanwhile, will cover 30 km of the Duffey Lake Road at one of the worst parts of the highway, according to Lillooet Mayor Christ’l Roshard.

“It’s a good first step,” she said. “The 30 kilometres of paving over the top of the Duffey will certainly deal with the worst part of the highway that is so broken down.”

She also welcomed the replacement of the single-lane bridge.

“Pretty much all the bridges on the Duffey are what we would call backwards across the creek,” Roshard said. “You have to do a sharp zigzag to get back onto the bridge, so the bridge will be engineered to take that zigzag out, so it will follow the contours of the mountain and it will be double-lane and concrete and steel.”

The bridge work will begin this month and is scheduled for completion by Oct. 31, 2009. The paving work is scheduled to be finished in August 2009.

Though she was encouraged by the announced improvements, Roshard said that more work needs to be done to fix up the roads leading into and out of Lillooet.

She pointed to two other points where improvements are needed — one is at Ten Mile Slide, a section of road on Highway 99 where a slip has been heading towards the Fraser River for several years, according to Roshard.

“In the last year it started moving more,” she said. “At one point the pavement was so badly buckled there was a foot and a half step in the middle of the road.”

Roshard said the Ministry of Transportation has taken pavement off that section of road and graded it on numerous occasions, but she added that there remains a great deal of concern about the slip.

“We’ve been getting a lot of attention with the slide because of course it’s the alternate route to Whistler,” she said. “Our concern is that at some point that’s going to fall into the river.”

Ten Mile Slide is also located on the territory of the Xaxli’p Band, which has 17 reserves north of Lillooet.

In July 2007, the province announced a partnership with the Xaxli’p Band to “immediately fix” the section of highway at the slide, but Roshard said more is needed.

A spokesman for the Xaxli’p band declined comment until its chief, Darrell Bob Sr., returned from vacation on Aug. 7.

Roshard also noted that there are problems at a section of Highway 12 near Texas Creek. That section is often closed in the winter due to heavy rockfall and can require flaggers to let people through a single lane.

Roshard said that the Ministry of Transportation is extending some existing rock fencing as a “short term” solution to that section.

She acknowledges, however, that fixing the problems on Highway 12 and 99 would be an expensive endeavour.

“In order to make these sections really safe, you would have to spend millions and millions of dollars, like $60 million,” she said. “I applaud the ministry, I think these are all good first steps, but you know I think the ministry has to keep working on it and I think they will.”

Jeff Knight, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation, said the rock fencing for Highway 12 near Texas Creek is estimated at a cost of $3.5 million. As for Ten Mile Slide, he noted that the work announced in July 2007 has been completed but was not aware of any further improvements that would take place at that section of Highway 99.

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