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Drivers told not to stop for photos along flood-damaged Coquihalla highway

Reopening to traffic quickly followed by reports of unprepared drivers
Crews work to repair the Bottletop Bridge on the Coquihalla Highway on Saturday, Nov. 27 2021. (B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure)

A key British Columbia highway has reopened to all traffic after being torn apart by disastrous flooding in November but it only took hours for the Transportation Ministry to issue a safety reminder.

In a post on social media, the ministry says it has received reports of people stopping “in unsafe ways” to take pictures along the Coquihalla Highway corridor, also known as Highway 5.

A roughly 130-kilometre stretch of the multi-lane, high-speed link between the Lower Mainland and the Interior was ripped up by floods or slides that also collapsed or washed out seven bridges during a series of powerful rainstorms.

Crews working around the clock spent 35 days to restore one lane in each direction, although the route was restricted to commercial vehicles as vital supply chains were re-established.

After reopening to all traffic Wednesday, the ministry says it quickly received reports of two unprepared drivers running out of gas while many more were stopping to take photos of the flood damage.

The Facebook post says the extent of the devastation and scope of the ongoing repairs are remarkable, but stopping on the narrower road or unfinished shoulders is extremely dangerous.

“The work is impressive. We get it,” the ministry says in the post.

“But you’re putting yourself and others in harm’s way.”

Speed limits along many of the repaired sections of the mountainous highway have been cut to 50 km/h, which the ministry says will add nearly an hour to the trip between Hope and Merritt. It also warns drivers that rest stop and other services are not available.

—The Canadian Press

RELATED: BC Trucking Association voices concerns over dangerous conditions on Coquihalla