VIDEO: B.C. celebrates 30 years of the Coquihalla

The Coquihalla played a crucial role in connecting Merritt with the rest of B.C.
Image Credit: B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure

VANCOUVER - It was 30 years ago this week when B.C.'s now most travelled route officially opened. Highway 5 — better known as the Coquihalla — made a huge impact on how people travelled through the province, especially from the Lower Mainland to the Southern Interior.

The highway started being designed in 1973, and accelerated design and construction began in the spring of 1984 ahead of Expo 86 in Vancouver, according to a media release from the Ministry of Transportation. To be sure the project was completed on time, more than 10,000 people were hired to work on it.

When the Coquihalla opened it wasn't just a quicker route to the province's Interior, it was crucial to the community of Merrit and would connect it to the rest of the province. The small town had been lobbying the province for years to build a new route.

It's been an important part of the growth we've seen in the Thompson-Okanagan over the past three decade, but it wasn't cheap to build with a price tag of $848-million.

Those who drove the highway before 2008 will remember the controversial tolls. The government charged $5 for motorcycles, $10 for cars and light trucks and up to $50 for trucks. They were dropped in the fall of 2008.

When the Coquihalla first opened, drivers would receive this bumper sticker after going over it.
When the Coquihalla first opened, drivers would receive this bumper sticker after going over it.
Image Credit: B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure

By the numbers:

- 18 highway interchanges

- 38 bridge and overpass structures

- 19 vehicle underpasses

- 50 pipeline crossings were built along the route

- 9 million tonnes of gravel (625,000 dump truck loads) were hauled

- 45 kilometres of culvert pipe were installed.

- 700,000 loads of dirt were hauled.

- 160,000 tonnes of concrete were poured.

- 26,000 tonnes of steel were installed.

- 90,000 metres of fencing were installed.

- 150,000 metres of median and guard rail were installed

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