Special to the Observer
B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) has completed its preliminary design for the proposed Quesnel North-South Interconnector, which would allow traffic on Highway 97 to flow around the city’s downtown core.
A MOTI spokesperson said via e-mail that the ministry’s website will be updated mid-August 2020 with new information, including 3D-modelling images of the proposed interconnector.
With this phase of the project completed, MOTI must next complete a full business case to put before provincial leaders in order to seek funding to build the Interconnector. MOTI’s spokesperson did not indicate when the business case will be completed.
The proposed Interconnector would see a new four-lane highway turn off Front Street between Gordon Avenue and River Park Road and re-connect to Highway 97 on the east side of the Quesnel River. The project would include rebuilding the Quesnel River Bridge and the Quesnel Rail Crossing north of the existing structures, and may require the acquisition of several North Quesnel properties, according to the ministry’s North-South Interconnector Question and Answer document.
The Q&A document says the Quesnel River Bridge is “too narrow [and does] not meet height and width restrictions for overloaded trucks.” The structure is almost 60 years old. “The Quesnel River Bridge and the Quesnel Rail Crossing Bridge need replacement as they are both coming to the end of their service life,” states the document.
When asked via e-mail what will happen to the bridges should MOTI not receive funding to go ahead with the Interconnector, a ministry spokesperson stated “the bridges would continue to be monitored and maintained.”
MOTI estimates the cost of the proposed North-South Interconnector could be more than $275 million.
The Interconnector project was approved for preliminary design after the 2018 Quesnel Transportation Study investigated alternate route options for the city.
Four other possible routes were examined by MOTI during the 2018 Transportation Study; however, the proposed route was ultimately chosen by the provincial body. It received more than 80 per cent support after community engagement sessions and stakeholder meetings in spring 2018, although a group of citizens have been vocal in their opposition to the project, citing traffic noise, environmental impacts, and loss of North Quesnel property as main concerns.
MOTI has promised to negotiate fair land settlements for those affected, should the project get the green light.
At a March 2018 City Council meeting, MOTI project managers indicated the preliminary design and business case stages of the project could take up to five years to finalize. If approved, funding will then be sought from federal and provincial governments.
“We are committed to meeting the long-term transportation needs for the people of Quesnel and the Highway 97 corridor,” said the MOTI spokesperson.
Earlier this month, motorists were stuck in traffic for several hours after an out-of-town semi truck struck and damaged the rail on the Quesnel River Bridge.
Quesnel RCMP have since located the driver and the investigation into the incident is continuing.
Meanwhile, damage to the bridge is estimated at more than $120,000. A city water line was also damaged.