Crews complete twinning of Trans-Canada through Banff National Park
Published Friday, June 13, 2014 4:54PM MDT Last Updated Friday, June 13, 2014 6:45PM MDT
The twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park is complete and government officials hope the project will cut down on the number of human and animal fatalities.
The project has been underway for years and on Friday the final 35 kilometre section from Castle Junction to the B.C. border was unveiled.
The highway was originally built in the 50s as a scenic, low-volume, two lane highway and twinning began in 1981 east of the Banff Park Gates.
Now the entire 82 kilometres of the Trans-Canada through the park is twinned and officials say the work will make it safer for everyone.
“As an Albertan, much like anybody else, there is a frustration certainly when there was congestion of traffic but more importantly it’s about safety. We heard often about collisions resulting in deaths and of course wildlife and human collisions as well so obviously this is a significant improvement to have the highway twinned, to have the fencing done,” said Wildrose MP Blake Richards.
Richards says a number of agencies contributed over the years to complete the project at a cost of about $317M.
“To be able to complete this is a very significant thing, for the park, for people travelling through the park, for the goods and services that flow through here as well,” said Richards. “Yes it did take some time, it’s a challenging environment but certainly something that’s going to be a very significant thing for years and years to come.”
The wildlife overpasses and underpasses in the park are admired by many and conservationists around the world look to Alberta as a leader in projects like this.
“This stretch of highway here, that’s just been completed, has more of these wildlife structures than any other highway of this length in the entire world and there’s been a lot of innovation taking place here and it’s being used as a model all over the world,” said Richards.
Shelley Humphries is an aquatic specialist with Parks Canada and says crews took the opportunity to change a few things during construction to help some of the park’s lesser known species.
“In Banff National Park prior to twinning, there was a culvert on Bath Creek, and it was one of the worst culverts left in Banff National Park. It was only four metres wide so the water had to get really restricted to come inside of this culvert and then there was a outfall drop, so if fish wanted to get up into Bath Creek here they needed to navigate this jump and then this really turbulent 20 metre long culvert, which is way too small,” said Humphries. “When they came along to do the twinning that this location was going to be a great place to completely remove the culvert and put in a bridge basically.”
Humphries says the new structure, about eight km west of Lake Louise, will give the fish an additional 200 metres of stream channel and that two more species of fish have been detected since the work was completed.
“We always had resident bull trout, which are a species at risk in the park, and we had non-native brook trout but since this structure has been put in, Rocky Mountain white fish have recolonized a section of stream and threatened west-slope cut throat trout,” said Humphries.
Humphries says the fish now have access to another 13 kilometres of stream that they were not able to get into before and the project is a win for threatened species.
Ryan Syme is a highway engineer with Parks Canada and says he is proud of the entire project.
“We really took ownership of the project. We did all the project management in-house. We had all our own standing offers with consultants. We really took ownership of the project and made sure the quality was there, that the environmental considerations were really benefitting the park and the environment,” said Syme.
Officials say exclusion fencing on both sides of the highway has already reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions by over 80 percent.
(With files from Kevin Fleming)