CHASE, B.C. — It's a dangerous stretch of highway that's been in need of upgrades for years, but steady progress is being made the second phase of the Pritchard to Hoffman's Bluff project, which started last spring.
The $23 million upgrade will widen another three kilometers of the TransCanada Highway. That stretch has been a challenge for the Ministry of Tranportation and crews working on the area since it began last year.
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"It's very tight alignment with sharp curves, large rock bluff, very little area to work with the railway immediately parallel to the highway and the South Thompson River right there," says Project Manager Ken Aura.
But the ministry says the blasting and subsequent removal of rock to make room for two more lanes has gone as smooth as possible.
It's all part of the four-laning of the TransCanada Highway from Kamloops to Alberta. The next step is widening to Chase.
"What we're trying to do is keep the construction momentum going from the Hoffman's Bluff project," says Aura. "Hoffman's Bluff should be completed this fall, and then we plan to tender the Chase Creek Road to Chase project in the spring of 2017."
At a public open house, Chase residents had an opportunity to see the project plans, and many say it will benefit the village greatly.
But there are concerns from businesses like Treetop Flyers, a ziplining company in Chase. Ron Betts says the construction could severely impact their business, which sits right next to highway one.
"Our third line, our final line that we call 'The Big Horn' flies about 1,000 feet and ends on the edge of the highway," says Betts, a co-owner of Treetop Flyers. "So for us that's the one we're most concerned about, because if that highway were to get widened out there, there's a potential we may have to move that last terminus. With ziplines it's not easy."
But the ministry says it's willing to work with affected business.
"Certainly one of the mandates of the Ministry is to support business," says Aura. "Our highway infrastructure does that, and it's an important consideration whenever we're upgrading the highway. But the biggest priority is safety."
Treetop Flyers is excited about the project, with easier access to Chase from Kamloops and Salmon Arm. But they just hope they can work with the ministry and come up with a win-win solution.
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