Four Laning BC Highway 1: Your Questions Answered

traffic moves through large rock with cut through on the Trans Canada highway near Revelstoke

If you’ve driven in British Columbia, chances are pretty good you’ve been on the Trans-Canada Highway. It’s the primary east-west connection through our beautiful province, our main gateway to the rest of Canada, and a vital route for travel, tourism and trade. The section of BC Highway 1 between Kamloops and the Alberta border is also one of the most technically challenging corridors in the province and despite a lot of work to improve this part of the Trans-Canada in recent years, there are still many sections with sharp curves, steep grades and narrow bridges to tackle. We often hear from folks asking about four-laning this stretch, so we thought we’d share the most frequently asked questions (and their answers) here for you:

Why is it taking so long to modernize the road to a four-lane standard throughout?

The same mountain ranges, river valleys and adjacent railways that make this route so stunning to travel through, also create a unique set of issues to tackle in order to plan, design and expand the corridor. These issues include design considerations for avalanches, slope stability, floods, the environment, archaeology and stakeholder input, to name a few. Construction challenges associated with mountainous terrain include cost, blasting, scaling, as well as traffic and schedule management, weather challenges, consideration of other infrastructure (such as railways) and the short construction season (from mid-April to mid-October). Once construction has started on a project along this corridor, improvement projects typically require multiple construction seasons. A program of this size is very expensive to undertake, and we need to balance limited funds against many priorities.

Crews work to scale rock face on the Trans Canada Highway

How do you decide which parts of the highway are updated first?

We look at the entire corridor from multiple technical perspectives to identify needs. We then prioritize projects to improve sections that have higher than average crash histories, high traffic volumes and bridges that need replacing, while also keeping other issues, such as maintaining mobility along the corridor during construction, in mind as well. We also need to understand the impact of proposed improvements on indigenous interests and communities along with a wide range of stakeholders.

Can’t you just put tunnels in where there isn’t enough width?

When we plan projects, analyzing options is a critical part of our process.  We evaluate the pros of those options against their technical difficulty and cost to build and maintain.  If a design includes tunnels while achieving the objectives within the available budget, they might become part of the final solution.

Wildlife grazes alongside the Kicking Horse Canyon stretch of BC Highway 1 - the Trans Canada

How long will it take to complete the program?

There are 338 kilometres of Highway 1 between Kamloops and the Alberta Border under provincial control (with Parks Canada responsible for the remaining 102 kilometres) and there are currently 121 kilometres that are four lanes or more. We expect that the entire effort will take many decades to complete.

Upgrading the Trans-Canada between Kamloops and the Alberta border to a modern, 100 km/h, four-lane standard, will allow traffic to move more safely and efficiently. Despite a lot of work to improve the Trans-Canada in recent years, there are still many sections with sharp curves, steep grades and narrow bridges so we have a lot of work to still do. It’s our driving concern, and we are working as hard as we can to get there. We hope that this helps answer your questions. If you have any other questions about this or anything else the ministry does – let us know in the comments below.

Learn more about the Trans-Canada Highway in BC:

Page 1 of 10 comments on “Four Laning BC Highway 1: Your Questions Answered”

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  1. I find I have to hold back my laughter at the following comment…

    “Government (both federal and provincial) must balance the priorities of their constituents with fiscal responsibility.”

    If our governments practised fiscal responsibility to it’s constituents instead of squandering it away on many other things we’d have these roads (and other things) built already.

    Governments now are taking in considerably more money from many sources that they didn’t have 50 years ago yet we constantly seem to be struggling to improve our infrastructures, not to mention so many other things.

    I say it’s time to practise what you preach.

    • Thanks for your feedback Rick – we can appreciate your concerns to be sure. We certainly try to work with the federal government for additional funding wherever possible because the cost of building has also increased over the years, as have the number of travellers on BC highways.

  2. The comment above stating that “the entire effort will take many decades to complete” is understandable while being unacceptable. People are dying on this road routinely; if we could build the Coquihalla in a relatively short timeframe, this can for sure be sped up. It’s all about the will. I get that the Coquihalla and related highways didn’t have to face the many other issues faced on Hwy 1, such as traffic/population/built up areas etc, but something needs to be done to speed this up. For one thing, I guarantee that if we were talking about a roadway in Quebec that was similarly busy and important, it would be done already. Both governments need to take this seriously. Other countries are building amazing highways and solving problems. We’re doing it at turtle speed.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Bryan. Unfortunately, it’s not just the population along the corridor that needs to be taken into consideration but also the geography, construction season, and provincial budget. Government (both federal and provincial) must balance the priorities of their constituents with fiscal responsibility. We live here and we travel this corridor as well. We understand the needs and are working as hard and as fast as we can to achieve them. We hope this helps clarify. Safe travels.

  3. Three valley gap west of revelstoke very dangerous section rocks still coming down please fix this would love to see it double laned from revelstoke to sicamous please. When is this section being upgraded ? Thank you

  4. Instant about the cost of up Grade,s. But we need more bigger Crews on the construction or multiple companies to speed it up. What’s out here now is taking way too long to get anything done and mess up all schedules they keep the world turning in transportation of every day goods

    • Thank you for the feedback. Many of the projects along the TransCanada highway are very complex and technical in nature and involve steps such as blasting and slope stabilization. In order to proceed with the work safely the project must follow a step by step process that at times may seem slow. This is done to ensure safety of the crews, the public and prevent damage to the existing infrastructure. We hope this is helpful. Safe travels.

  5. At the current rate of progress there is no chance of 4 laning of the provincial sections of the highway being completed before the 2060s. I suspect some sections will NEVER be 4 laned. The so called Kamloops to Alberta Program has no plan, no timescale, no feasibility studies and no cost estimate. The government really needs to work out what else it can do to address the horrendous accident rate on this highway and the increasing congestion. I hold out no hope whatsoever that it will.