The Trans-Canada: Transportation and Economy

Try and imagine Canada as it was before the development of a modern transportation system. The roads that did exist were rough, many communities were isolated from each other and trying to cross the country, or even a single province, was a major undertaking that could last for months. If you wanted to travel any great distance, your best bet was probably the Canadian Pacific Railway – the country’s only transcontinental link at the time.

Fast forward a few decades. Road and rail networks expand. Our population grows, as does the demand for increased trade and travel. The need for a continuous, drivable route from coast to coast becomes impossible to ignore. So, in 1950, work began on building the Trans-Canada Highway. Construction lasted for years until finally, in 1962, the Trans-Canada Highway was officially opened.

The new highway united the country, both symbolically and physically, like never before. Not only did it open up the country and better connect communities, it also provided an effective way to transport our abundant resources, like timber, metal and coal to our ports and markets across the world.

Since the highway’s opening, we’ve seen our population continue to grow (check out the numbers below from BC Stats). And we’ve been making sure our transportation system grows along with it, supporting our communities and our economy. The more people there are, the more cars on the road and the more investments we need to make to ensure those vehicles are moving safely and efficiently.

Population Growth

1961

2011

Hope

2,751

5,969

Kamloops

10,076

85,678

Revelstoke

3,624

7,139

Golden

1,776

3,701

There have been a number of notable projects along the Trans-Canada in the last 50 years. There’s the building of the original Port Mann Bridge, tunnelling through the Fraser Canyon and multi-laning and upgrading many sections of the route to freeway status, to name just a few.

Today these efforts are still going strong. The Gateway Program is bringing a new 10-lane Port Mann Bridge, as well as many other upgrades to the Trans-Canada in Metro Vancouver. On the other side of the province, there are the Clanwilliam and Donald bridges, and of course there’s the Kicking Horse Canyon project, which has meant nearly a decade’s worth of improvements to the highway just outside of Golden.


Just how big of an economic impact do these kinds of works have? Think of it this way: nearly half of our province’s economic activity is directly related to transportation. Just taking the Kicking Horse Canyon as an example, the thousands of vehicles that travel through that section of the Trans-Canada each day represent about a billion dollars a year.

Big numbers like that demand a big response, which is why we’re investing so much along our major routes. But we’re not just looking to new asphalt and bridges to keep people, goods and our economy moving. We’re using some pretty cool technology, too, like weigh-in-motion, which keeps commercial vehicles moving, gets goods to market faster and saves millions of dollars in equipment, fuel and driver time.

With the Trans-Canada Highway turning 50 this year, it’s a great time to look back at just how far we’ve come, what we’ve done and what we’re doing to make travel safer and easier. Because those roads aren’t just a way to get around, they’re an integral part of our economy, and so closely tied to our identity and our way of life.

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