Equipment has been arriving this week to begin four-laning a six-kilometre section of Highway 97 near Williams Lake.
“This project will see over six kilometres of the highway widened to four lanes from the Williams Lake Indian Reserve #1 near 150 Mile House north to Lexington Road,” Transportation Minister Todd Stone said Wednesday.
In advance of the project getting underway, the Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB) has been constructing a new on-reserve frontage road that will link the band’s Coyote Rock Development Project and other development lands with the new highway alignment.
“This is a critically important project for the Williams Lake Indian Band and the region as a whole,” WLIB Chief Ann Louie said. “These works will improve the safety of this section of highway and greatly enhance the potential for economic development on our lands.”
The band is pleased the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has recognized the need to collaborate with First Nations, particularly when projects are running through reserve lands, Louie said.
“We look forward to continuing our relationship with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and their contractor during the delivery of this project.”
A $21.6-million contract for the project was awarded to Cantex-Okanagan Construction of Penticton.
One of the band’s goals, working with Cantex and the transportation ministry, is to ensure that as many community members are hired for the project as possible, WLIB Coun. Willie Sellars said.
“The good thing about what we have been up to as the WLIB is that there is a lot of opportunity for band members to get to work, whether it be with excavation or now with Cantex, the mine or through other venues like fencing and things we’ve got going on through our natural resources department,” Sellars said. “It’s been pretty exciting.”
The highway project is scheduled to be completed in November 2017.
Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes said Highway 97 is a key trade route and important highway for commerce throughout the province.
“We’ll continue to fulfill our commitment to widen the corridor between Cache Creek and Prince George in the coming years to increase safety and support our commercial trucking industry,” Oakes said.