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B.C. gas rationing ends Tuesday, Coquihalla could reopen this year


“We don’t know what part of the holiday season we can do that, but that’s the plan,” Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said. More details are expected on Wednesday.

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B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said the Coquihalla Highway could reopen before the end of the year, possibly in time for the holiday travel season. Also Monday, the province announced the end of gas rationing in southwestern B.C.

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Fleming made the Coquihalla announcement at a news conference Monday, just days after saying a reopening would take until early January.

He lauded the work and determination of crews who have been working day and night to make temporary repairs to the damaged freeway.

He cautioned it was too soon for an exact opening date, but said more information, including a timeline and scope of repair, will be available on Wednesday.

“We don’t know what part of the holiday season we can do that, but that’s the plan,” Fleming said.

The Coquihalla, the major inland link from Metro Vancouver to the B.C. Interior, has been closed to all traffic since the storm in mid-November badly damaged several sections of the highway.

More than 20 sections spanning a 130-kilometre stretch of the Coquihalla are being repaired right now, said Fleming, with about 300 people working around the clock, even through more than a half-metre of snow on the weekend.

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Road repairs are going around the clock to repair the Bottletop Bridge on Highway 5, the Coquihalla, where approaches at one end of the twin freeway bridge were wiped out by flooding caused by the Nov. 14-15 atmospheric river.
Road repairs are going around the clock to repair the Bottletop Bridge on Highway 5, the Coquihalla, where approaches at one end of the twin freeway bridge were wiped out by flooding caused by the Nov. 14-15 atmospheric river. Photo by B.C. Ministry of Transportation

Fleming said weather can hamper work on the highway, especially when paving starts.

Once the Coquihalla Highway is able to be reopened, even partially, it is expected to draw all or a significant chunk of commercial traffic, which would allow Highway 3 to be reopened to general traffic.

“Day by day our transportation network is getting closer to a sense of normalcy, and after the historic, devastating series of storms this is an incredible feat,” said Fleming.

Highway 3 from Hope to Princeton and Highway 99, from the junction of Lillooet River Road to the B.C. Hydro Seton Lake Campsite access, remain open to commercial trucks and essential travel only.

The provincial government extended the provincial state of emergency to Dec. 28, citing the recovery efforts still underway in communities hit hard by flooding and work still necessary to reopen highways.

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The gas rationing order, which limited drivers of non-essential vehicles in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast and Gulf Island to 30 litres per visit to the gas station, will end Tuesday. The measure has been in place since Nov. 19.

Farnworth said he is confident B.C. has enough supply of fuel with the reopening of the Trans Mountain pipeline and continued shipments of fuel by rail, truck and barge.

The pipeline, which reopened last week after a three-week precautionary pipeline, is expected to be operating at full capacity sometime next week. It provides about a third of the gas consumed in southwester B.C. and provides crude oil to the Burnaby refinery that provides another one third of the local supply.

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