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.