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Hwy. 3 could do with an upgrade at Hartley Creek: Wilks

Hartley Creek often backs up at Hwy. 3 due to silt, and flooded the roadway on Sunday
Hartley Creek, to the east of Fernie, backed up and flooded Hwy. 3 during province-wide storms on November 14 and 15, 2021. With water over the highway, the road was closed until waters receded for cleanup. (Image courtesy of Bill Phillips)

Hartley Creek is a known vulnerability to Hwy.3 and needs to be addressed through more robust infrastructure, according to Sparwood Mayor David Wilks.

Hwy.3 was temporarily cut in the Elk Valley, east of Fernie, after the culvert Hartley Creek passes through backed up and water flooded the roadway, with traffic having to detour through a residential area for over three days until the highway could be reopened.

Wilks, who is chair of the Hwy. 3 Mayors and Chairs Coalition (a group of municipal leaders that seek to advocate for the continued improvement of Hwy. 3), said that the incident was just another example of the danger Hartley Creek posed to connectivity through the region.

“We’re very lucky that Dicken Rd (where traffic was re-routed) is situated where it is.”

According to Wilks, recent improvements to the culvert under the highway had proven inadequate, as silt that builds up in the pipes was difficult to dislodge.

“There are longstanding issues there,” he said.

“It’s plugged itself one too many times to say it isn’t a problem.”

Highway crews had to keep the road closed until waters receded enough for cleanup efforts to commence.

Wilks said that he and the Mayors and Chairs Coalition would be seeking to work with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) to have the issue considered as part of a slate of improvements needed to British Columbian transportation infrastructure following recent events. Highways were cut around the province after an ‘atmospheric river’ brought torrential rains to the province that caused mudslides and flooded out communities.

While Wilks said that issues with Hartley Creek flooding Hwy. 3 paled in comparison to damage done elsewhere in B.C., “it does show that that stretch of highway is subject to a problem which can be fixed.”

Wilks suggested either raising the roadway or even building a bridge over Hartley Creek in order to prevent silt from blocking Hartley Creek’s passage underneath the highway.

Hwy. 3 carries between 6,000-8,000 vehicles per day in winter, and around 10,000 per day in summer months. Traffic through the region includes a high volume of commercial traffic as an alternate east-west route through British Columbia, and vehicles heading to the Kingsgate border crossing with the U.S.

READ MORE: Coquihalla Highway will take months to rebuild from mud and rockslide damage
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