Over, Under and Through – A Fast Track into the Interior

In 1984, construction of the first phase of the Coquihalla Highway began. The highway would eventually provide drivers with a quicker route into the interior from Hope.The first phase, which was completed in time for Expo 86, was done in just 20 months. A project of this scale had never been done before in such a short time in North America.

This section of the highway was the longest stretch at 120 kilometres long. To finish on time, over 10,000 people were needed to fill all of the jobs. It was a team effort between the ministry, highway construction companies and engineering firms from around the province that brought everything together for the challenge.

Along with the second and third phases, which linked Merritt to Kamloops and to Peachland respectively, overall travel time was reduced, opening up the coastal communities to the interior of B.C. This year the highway celebrates its 25th anniversary. Since opening on May 16, 1986, more than 66 million vehicles and 9.6 million commercial vehicles hasve passed through the highways corridors.

Quick Facts from the Construction of the Coquihalla Highway:

  • More than 1,000 pieces of heavy equipment worked non-stop in the summer of 1985
  • In total, 18 highway interchanges, 38 bridge and overpass structures, 19 vehicle underpasses and 50 pipeline crossings were built along the route.
  • Millions of tonnes of combined gravel, concrete, asphalt and steel were used to build the road.
  • From top to bottom, crews experienced every single type of weather condition known to man. With a summit reaching 1,244 metres tall it wasn’t uncommon for it to be snowing at the summit and be sunny at the base.
  • At 300 metres long, crews built one of B.C.’s largest snowsheds to protect the highway from some of the province’s most active avalanche passes.
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Page 1 of 8 comments on “Over, Under and Through – A Fast Track into the Interior”

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  1. This is so cool!!! Just last month me and my bf took a road trip to BC and we drove on the Coquihalla for quite awhile! I loved it, it was exciting and very new to me seeing as im from Saskatchewan and here everything is flat! Wish I would have seen this website before the trip so I would have known some facts about it while driving on it lol. Next summer I hope to take another trip to Bc and travel this highway again ­čÖé

    • Good to hear that you enjoyed it Tanya, and glad to hear you will be back. DriveBC is another great tool to learn about current road conditions and events on BC highways.

  2. Hello there,

    I am doing a research project on the history of the coquihalla and methods of road control during the winter. Do you have any idea of more sources I can use in regards to the construction history of the coquihalla and current methods of snow and ice removal on the road?

    Thanks for your time,


    • Those stories are true! There used to be deck heating of the pavement in the Great Bear Snowshed, but it was decommissioned a number of years ago due to inconsistent operation and high costs. Essentially it was like in-floor heating that some people put under their bathroom tiles. Imagine heating a highway to melt ice. It was an innovative idea but impractical in the long term.

  3. I love the new show on the weather channel “Highway thru HELL” it is a great show, and I have become extremely interested in the coq. Is there any way I could get some info. on the highway, it’s history, etc. I am a retired trucker, several years ago I picked up Toyota parts in Canada, it is beautiful country. Many thanks for anything you could do for me. Robert F Byrd, 138 Walter ST, Wallins Creek, Kentucky 40873 United States.