The Coquihalla Highway celebrates an important milestone this weekend.
Twenty-eight years ago, the highway was opened to provide drivers with a faster route into the Interior from Hope.
In 1984, construction of the first phase of the Coquihalla Highway began and was completed in 20 months, in time for Expo 86. A project of this scale had never been done before in such a short time in North America. During the construction of the first phase of the Coquihalla Highway, which linked Hope to Merritt, over five million cubic metres of rock was blasted. This section was the longest stretch at 137 kilometres. To finish on time, over 10,000 people were needed to fill all of the jobs. The second phase, from Merritt to Kamloops, opened in September 1987 and the third phase, running from Merritt to Peachland, was completed in 1990. The total cost of all three phases of the Coquihalla was $955 million.
“It’s an important piece of infrastructure,” said RiIey Forman, who is in charge of tourism services for AdvantageHOPE. “It changed British Columbia in how we look at transportation and trade. Hope was the gateway to that massive change. We have five junctions here and five major spokes leading from Hope. In 1986 another spoke was added and I believe that it’s definitely a part of our experience.”
To celebrate this milestone weekend, staff at the Hope Visitor Centre will be wearing original hardhats and old souvenir buttons that were given out the day the highway opened. Jamie Davis and the Highway Thru Hell crew will also be on location at the Hope Visitor Centre on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. signing autographs, taking pictures with fans, and participating in a fundraiser for Hope Search and Rescue.
In addition, Saturday marks the opening day of the Hope Museum for the 2014 season.
Staff have spent hundreds of hours cleaning up the space and digitalizing the library of museum contents.
“We hope to rotate more and more historical stories as they become more relevant in time here in Hope,” said Forman.
“As we work through the summer months and working into the 2015 season, we’ll be completely re-shifting the way we accept donations to the museum, display the historical artifacts of the community and most importantly the way we inspire and tell the story of our history in a way that encourages people to hit the streets. Once they’ve come through the museum and they’ve learned something about some of these historical moments, we really want them to go out and experience them.”