Nearly a year after heavy rain and flooding washed out more than 25 sections of road, Highway 8 is now reopened to all vehicle traffic.
The atmospheric river that descended on B.C. in November 2021 led to the complete closure of the highway between Merritt and Spences Bridge for 361 days. More than seven kilometres of highway were completely washed out.
“From the first day of the atmospheric river, people have gone above and beyond to help us to reach this important milestone,” said B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming. “We all owe a huge debt of gratitude for the impressive work that crews and staff have done to reconnect the people and communities along Highway 8.”
Because of the highway closure, many Thompson Nicola Regional District communities, including the Nooaitch, Shackan and Cook’s Ferry First Nations were left isolated.
“This was a 750-year event,” said Nooaitch Indian Band Chief Marcel Shackelly. “No one alive has ever seen something like this.”
With many parties coming together to reopen the highway, more than 30 per cent of workers on the project were Indigenous.
“The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 is proud of the work that has been done by our members in getting Highway 8 reopened,” said Brian Cochrane, business manager, of IUOE Local 115. “We’re committed to rebuilding the province’s highways and to supporting the local and First Nations communities on all of our projects.”
“There used to be trade trails…not anymore. We rely on the highways now” - Shackan Indian Band Chief Arnold Lampreau pic.twitter.com/SPmy1Zs6Bt— Jake Courtepatte (@JakeC_16) November 9, 2022
Despite being reopened to all traffic, many repairs are temporary and sections of the highway will remain an active construction zone to install road barriers, stabilize road embankments, and continue permanent fixes. Because of this, there will be temporary closures at times as well as traffic delays. Reduced speed limits will be in effect and some stretches of road will be varying surfaces.
As the highway is still an active construction zone, it is not a suitable detour if the Trans-Canada Highway (HWY 1) or the Coquihalla Highway (HWY 5) are closed. If either one of those highways is closed, Highway 8 would only allow limited access to residents.
On top of the 25 sections of highway that were taken out during last year’s atmospheric river, another five were taken out during the summer because of additional washouts.
To help put the highway back together, two temporary bridges have been built, an 85-metre single-lane bridge and a 73-metre two-lane bridge.
Media was given a tour of the bridges.
Transpo Minister Rob Fleming joined Sheri-Lynn Jules in pressing the button to officially open the security gates for Hwy. 8 between #Merritt and Spences Bridge. The highway, devastated by the flooding last November, reopened Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/liTXqmsSfL— Jake Courtepatte (@JakeC_16) November 10, 2022
Environmental teams on scene saved more than 5,000 fish and returned them to the Nicola River. Crews will remain on site to monitor fish and vegetation along the highway.
The province’s winter-tire regulations and chain-up areas are still in effect.