(from left) Councillor Lisa Dafoe

(from left) Councillor Lisa Dafoe

Four-laning and flood study funding for Cache Creek

The long-awaited widening of Highway 97 north of town will being later this year.

A long-anticipated highway widening north of Cache Creek was announced on March 27, as part of phase three of the provincial government’s Cariboo Connector expansion program.

At the same time, an announcement was made stating that the Village of Cache Creek is to receive $150,000 from the government for the purposes of flood risk assessments, floodplain mapping, and flood mitigation plans.

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart made the announcements on behalf of Transportation Minister Todd Stone and Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto. She said that the Liberal government launched the Cariboo Connector project more than 10 years ago, in recognition of the fact that Highway 97 is “an essential corridor for trade and transportation. It links northern resource communities to the coast, and is vital for this region.”

The two-lane bridge at the north end of Cache Creek, along with Highway 97 to the northern boundary of the Village of Cache Creek, will be widened to at least four lanes. It is one of four projects scheduled along Highway 97 for phase three, with an estimated total cost of $200 million. Tegart says that when phase two is complete, nearly 50 per cent of the corridor between Cache Creek and Prince George will have been widened to three or four lanes. She also notes that in areas that have been widened, collisions have decreased by 30 per cent.

“The project will benefit Cache Creek and motorists in this region,” says Tegart. “Widening Highway 97 to four lanes just north of Cache Creek will improve safety on this stretch of highway by providing guaranteed passing for motorists and safer access to businesses at the north end of town. This will alleviate some of the conflict between commercial truckers and other road users near the community.”

Engineering design work will start this year to replace the bridge across the Bonaparte and widen the highway.

“[Cache Creek mayor] John Ranta has been a proponent of this for a long time,” says Tegart. “It will improve safety and mobility, and it’s an opportunity for economic development; and it ensures that Highway 97 remains a reliable trade route.”

Ranta agrees that he has been lobbying for the widening of the bridge and highway north of town for many years. “[Former premier] Gordon Campbell announced the Cariboo Connector project in 2005, and since then Cache Creek has anxiously anticipated our share of that,” he says. “Phases one and two are substantially complete, but four or five years ago council and I met with Todd Stone at the Union of B.C. Municipalities AGM, because more projects had been announced [along the highway] that weren’t part of those phases.

“We said ‘Look, it says right here in the plan: phase three, widening from Cache Creek to the junction with Highway 99. Where’s that part of the project?’ We didn’t know if the solution would be for them to take it out of the plan or announce they were going ahead with it.”

Ranta says that there have been several meetings since then with Stone. “I’m delighted they made the announcement. The fact we have a two-lane bridge is demonstrably an impediment to the economic development of the community.

“A property owner on the west side of the highway, north of the bridge, wants to build a 100-site mobile home park there, and it was thought access would have to be via Old Cariboo Road [because of the highway only being two lanes]. And a major national brand service was interested in locating in Cache Creek by Parke Road; but a traffic assessment showed they couldn’t do it with only two lanes.”

Ranta says that the flood funding is good news. “In May 2015, the community was devastated by a one-in-200 year storm event that resulted in significant damage throughout the community. To have $150,000 to study what needs to be done to prevent damage to the community in the case of another rainfall event is very proactive.”