Construction of the Dry Gulch Bridge on the Coquihalla Highway. (TransBC)

30 years later: Stories from the Coquihalla

Over 30 years later, the extraordinary piece of infrastructure is still admired

In 1973 when the need for viable transportation routes between growing cities called for a direct route between Hope, Merritt and Kamloops, with a subsequent connection Eastbound to the Okanagan Valley, developers set out on a journey to plan the route of a highway that would span across southwestern B.C. and serve as an efficient alternative to the Trans-Canada Fraser Canyon route.

Nine million tonnes of gravel, 700,000 dump truck loads of dirt, 26,000 tonnes of steel and 12 years later: phase one of three construction phases for the Coquihalla highway was completed.

READ MORE: B.C. government has invested $15 million into provincial arts council over the next three years

Ten thousand workers braved the harsh working conditions, blowing out thousands of hectares of rock and rough terrain to create the pathway for construction.

Although not many of these workers are around today, their masterpiece is still admired by all, 30 years after its inception.

“My uncle, that has since passed away, was one of the superintendent[s] on the job and I remember seeing an old 8 mm video of him flying over the route in a helicopter and pictures he took as the project went on as he loved his camera,” wrote Randy Jackson in memory of his late family member. “I was lucky enough to even been able to travel the highway before it was open and remember how strange it was with know other cars around.”

The late Bill Kobenter, who worked on the Coquihalla, used to research the geometric design standards for the engineers and civil technicians that worked on the highway.

His son, Robert Kobenter recalled old memories of his father in a string of comments on TransBC’s website.

“He always prided himself in working with a dedicated team of knowledgeable and skilled co-workers. He, like many, believed passionately in the domain, the discipline and the work. Reading your comments brought back a smile and many memories.”

The highway was known to have had environment and fishery experts consult the building process along the way.

One writer pointed out that, “Caribou had migratory routes that traverse the area where the Coquihalla was built and that tunnels were built specifically for animal migration.” Approximately 90,000 metres of fencing was installed in order keep animals out of harms way.

READ MORE: Kelowna starts annual road pavement program

A symbol of provincial infrastructure and pride, the Coquihalla even has a bumper sticker dedicated to its ferocity: “I DROVE THE COQUIHALLA”.

So if you don’t have any plans over the long weekend, take a car down through the boonies and join the fraternity of Coquihalla enthusiasts.


David Venn
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at david.venn@kelownacapnews.com
Follow us on Facebook | Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan woman deals with break-in after flooding forces her from home

Thief, who is known to her, now taunting her by text

Finishing touches being applied to new downtown Market

Official grand opening will be on March 28 as excitement builds

Wonderettes bring the fun while belting out the hits

Four-part harmonies in Chemainus Theatre production sure to be music to your ears

Midget Cougars go down swinging against powerful Salt Spring

Star player O’Dell finishes the season without committing a single foul

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

BC Ferries sailings filling up Family Day Monday

More than 20 sailings added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for long weekend

Most Read