What is So Important about Phase Four of the Kicking Horse Canyon?

khc_project_mapRushing rivers and soaring mountains make for a beautiful road trip, but when it comes to widening and improving highways, those same breathtaking features can pose an incredible challenge. Few highways in BC are more beautiful or challenging than the Kicking Horse Canyon along Highway 1.

Constructed through Kicking Horse Pass in 1962 and following basically the original Canadian Pacific Rail route, this portion of the Trans-Canada Highway reaches its highest point at an elevation of 1,643 metres or 5,390 feet.  That’s a pretty steep mountain.  Add in the Kicking Horse River running alongside the road and you begin to see why this stretch has remained two lanes for so long.  There was simply no room to grow without a large dollar value attached to it.

We are thrilled to announce that funds are now in place to tackle the most difficult and expensive phase of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project, from West Portal to Yoho Bridge. Construction cost will be one of the most expensive in the province’s history per-kilometre and will include the four-laning and realignment of four kilometres of highway, requiring a combination of bridges, retaining walls, rock catchment ditches and other measures to reduce rock fall hazards and bring the road up to a modern four-lane standard.  Funding has also been secured to four-lane highway 1 between the Donald Weigh Scale and Forde Station Road (about 20 kilometres west of Golden).

We’ve fired up our Road Trip Time Machine to show you the road as it was in 1966 and to help you imagine where we are going on this important route in the future.  Learn more about our photologs and see other BC Road Trip Time Machines here.

Sears catalogue surveyor
The Trans-Canada Highway is the primary east-west connector through British Columbia, our main gateway to the rest of Canada, and a vital route for travel, tourism and trade and BC Highway 1 (between Kamloops and the Alberta border) is being improved as a part of BC on the Move – our 10 year transportation plan. Do you have any questions about this, or any other work we do? Let us know in the comments below or connect with us on Twitter or Facebook.

TranBC Trivia
Kicking Horse Pass and River were named after James Hector, a naturalist, geologist, and surgeon who was a member of the Palliser Expedition through the area in the mid 1800’s. Hector was kicked by his horse while exploring the region, knocked unconscious and believed dead. Luckily for Hector, he fully recovered but the horse story stuck and the area came to be known as Kicking Horse. Now you know.Slow sign worker

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14 Responses to What is So Important about Phase Four of the Kicking Horse Canyon?

  1. Nick Thomas on February 17, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    I suppose better late than never. Give it another decade or three and you might get round to doing the accident prone sections of two lane highway either side of Revelstoke too.

  2. Kaye Jankovic on February 17, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    I moved the o Golden in 1966 as a child and always thought the “Canyon” was a treacherous piece of road and I recall traffic traveling through there at 20mph or less, frustrating the locals and the truckers on the Highway. What I noticed in the time machine video is th lack of on coming traffic, as well, th video does not reflect the narrowness of the Highway nor can you get a sense of how steep the canyon walls are. The upgrade of this stretch of Highway is long over due. In 1975 I travelling th Trans Canada Hwy all the way to Nova Scotia and this stretch of road, closely followed by the Roger’s Pass were by far th worst stretch of Highway. I am curious to know what happened to the plan for builinding tunnels through the mountain for this piece of the Kicking Horse Canyon ?

    • tranbceditor on February 20, 2017 at 10:37 am

      Hi Kaye,

      Thanks for connecting with us here and sharing your memories.Tunnels were a consideration in earlier design concepts, however, further engineering during the preliminary design phase found more cost effective solutions that did not require them.

  3. Nick Thomas on February 17, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Just heard on Global News that construction isn’t going to START until 2019.

  4. Coyote Gottfriedson on February 17, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Who will be the contractor for rock scaling, rock bottling, mesh work? When will the slope stabilization part start?

    • tranbceditor on February 20, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Hello Coyote,

      At this time a contractor for rock scaling, rock bottling and mesh work has not been selected. A Request for Proposals will be issued in the coming months for proponents interested in this Design-Build opportunity that would see construction beginning in 2019. Hope that this helps!

  5. Nick Thomas on February 21, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Any prospect of snow sheds on avalanche paths? If not, will there be provision for having two way traffic on one side of the central median (I assume it will be a hard median) to reduce the time needed to reopen the highway after avalanches? In the past this section has had some prolonged closures after avalanche events – which I understand are due to the need to truck out the debris as it can’t simply be bailed over the side because of the CP railway tracks below.

    • tranbceditor on February 21, 2017 at 11:06 am

      Good questions Nick! We have sent them to the project manager and will let you know.

    • tranbceditor on February 21, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      Hello again Nick,

      We spoke with the project manager who informed us that there is a reference concept drawing on the public web site that shows the planned alignment and features (http://www.kickinghorsecanyon.ca/khc_phase-4.htm).

      The alignment is designed to avoid the areas of avalanche hazard, and accommodate rock falls in catchment ditches, like those used on the east approach to the Park Bridge.

      Hope that this helps!

  6. Carrie on February 22, 2017 at 9:31 am

    Are there any plans to four-lane the stretch from Golden to Forde Stn. Rd.? I live in the Blaeberry and I find this stretch to be terribly dangerous with trucks and people illegally passing. Thanks for any insight!

    • tranbceditor on February 22, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      Hello Carrie,

      We shared your comment forward with the project manager who informed us that while there are no plans in the near future to four lane the stretch from Golden to Forde Stn. Rd., the ministry did announce a four-laning project last week between Donald and Forde Stn. Rd last week. Here is the link for more information on that announcement: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017TRAN0032-000346

  7. Bryan Notheisz on February 27, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Though this is great news I sure wish that this whole project would be taken off the twenty year timeline and put on the five year one. I’m a BC’er transplanted to Alberta, my family lives in Chilliwack and my mother-in-law is in Vernon so we often return via Highway 1 and then Alberta 93 and 11 (we live in Drayton Valley). I hate the drive for the most part as there is just too much traffic and not enough four lane. Has there been any consideration to vastly upping the schedule and adding tolls, perhaps at a couple locations? I think that given the rewards there might actually be some acceptance for this option.

    • tranbceditor on March 6, 2017 at 11:20 am

      Hi Bryan,

      Thanks for your comment. As you know from driving it – this is challenging piece of engineering to build. The current schedule is based on an expedited process called design-build. At present we don’t think it can be accelerated any further. There are presently no plans for tolling in this corridor. We hope that this helps!

      • Bryan Notheisz on March 12, 2017 at 9:33 am

        Thanks for the reply. First, I have to say that I absolutely understand the challenges (geography, financial, local concerns, First Nations, Parks Canada) but it sure seems we’ve been planning this for a long time. A couple minutes on google found me this https://www.th.gov.bc.ca/kickinghorse/reports/5-1/comp_hwy_corridor_mgmt_plan.pdf which is a link to a study from 1996. I know improvements have been made but its slow. Frankly people die on this road on a regular basis. The Coquihalla was built in something like 18 months, if we keep on as we are it’ll be 20 before this is finally finished. Why not at least start doing some longer stretches on some of the less challenging sections? For example from Donald Bridge to the entrance to Glacier Park there are many kilometers that don’t appear to involve much blasting etc. Again, I completely understand it is a very challenging project but I truly believe we need to move it up a notch or two

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