If you’re driving to Alberta across the Rocky Mountains, you have a few different routes to choose from. The Kootenay Pass on Highway 3 is one popular option. At nearly 1,800 metres, it’s also our highest. If heights aren’t your thing, there’s also the Yellowhead Pass on Highway 16, which at just over 1,000 metres, is one of the lowest routes through those precipitous peaks. It’s also where you’ll find us repairing some bin walls near Shale Hill, just a stone’s throw from Mt. Robson (provided you have a really good throwing arm, that is).
What’s a bin wall? Well, it’s actually just like it sounds; it’s a wall made of bins that helps to stabilize the slope. We dig away a bit of the hillside, put the bins in place and fill them up with the earth and rock we removed. We use them extensively throughout the province to stabilize slopes because they’re cost-effective, easy to install, have little impact on the environment and they work really well.
The main purpose of this wall is to support the highway while keeping dirt and debris from falling into the Fraser River. It’s been doing an excellent job of that so far, but the condition of the front faces of the bins has gotten worse, and they need to be fixed to make sure the slope stays stable.
Normally these walls will last for about 50 years, but these have deteriorated a little faster than normal due to the harsh weather they face and the impacts of ground and surface water on the metal parts of the wall.
The repair work should be wrapping up next month. While drivers likely won’t see much of a difference, the new wall will be keeping the slope in place, providing better support for the road and helping to keep the mighty, muddy Fraser a little less so.