Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth is looking forward to finding out what steps the provincial transportation ministry will take this year to improve the driving surface of Hwy37 between Kitimat and Terrace.
“There’s been some patching but I think we’re beyond that,” said Germuth last week.
“The highway needs resurfacing. There are a lot of little dips that need attention.”
Germuth and council were at the forefront of lobbying for improvements last fall and even found an ally in Barb Fitzsimmons, the chief operating officer of the provincial emergency health services commission, who toured the region late last year and expressed concern as to the comfort of patients being transferred via ambulance, given the state of the highway.
Germuth is now waiting for details of the improvements to the driving surface being planned for this year that were suggested at the time.
The past years of industrial and other traffic connected with both Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter rebuild project and site work that’s been part of the run-up toward potential liquefied natural gas plants have taken their toll on the highway, he said.
“If we get a final investment decision on LNG Canada and with Rio Tinto’s T2 project, no doubt we’re going to see more traffic,” Germuth added.
That latter reference relates to Rio Tinto’s decision to drill a second tunnel at its Kemano hydro-electric power plant, a project that’s due to start ramping up this spring.
Germuth said the DoK has had a good working relationship with the provincial transportation ministry’s northwest officials, something he said has helped as the district makes its case for improvements.
He highlighted recent projects such as the improved intersection to Kitamaat Village, the turning lane at the Cable Car subdivision entrance and better access from the highway to the landfill location as projects which have benefitted local residents.
In a statement, the provincial transportation ministry said it is still working out what resurfacing projects it will undertake in the region this year.
“Hwy 37 South between Kitimat and Terrace is a high priority for resurfacing in the area. Last year the ministry spent approximately $1 million on improvements and repairs to Highway 37S between Kitimat and Terrace. This included intermittent patching on the south end of the corridor and improvements to Kitimat River Hill.
“The ministry is currently assessing the northern region for priorities and is defining its resurfacing program.
“The ministry is also working closely with our maintenance contractor to make improvements within this corridor. Assessments for these improvements will take place once winter conditions are finished,” the statement continued.
Additional information from the ministry outlined exactly how last year’s $1 million was spent:
*approximately $285,000 on signs, shoulder improvements and a new guardrail on Kitimat River Hill.
*approximately $625,000 on patch paving, shoulder reconstruction and paving closer to Kitimat.
In addition to that work, the access improvements to the landfill entrance cost approximately $570,000.