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

Beaver Creek home hit by fire

Cause of the late night fire is still undetermined

BCHL: Bulldogs set to face Clippers in Round One of BCHL playoffs

Alberni Valley Bulldogs have won two out of eight games against Nanaimo this season

Maple Leafs alumni take over Alberni Valley Multiplex

Inclusion Cup raises funds for Port Alberni Association for Community Living

Coldest Night event raises $33K in Port Alberni

Elementary school students raise $445 with daytime walk

Juno-nominated teen singer from Port Alberni to appear on ‘American Idol’

Lauren Spencer-Smith up for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for ‘Unplugged, Vol. 1’

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

Most Read