The four-laning of Highway 97 near Williams Lake Indian Band’s Sugar Cane community is on schedule, said Earl McLeod, project manager for Cantex Construction.
“We were going to shut down on Nov. 20, but we are going to take every day we can and we have work up until Christmas for sure,” McLeod told the Tribune during a recent tour of the project. “The weather helps. The ground isn’t frozen yet so we can continue working as long as we can.”
Recently crews completed building a mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) wall below the highway adjacent to the Pioneer Log Homes site. Building it took about four weeks.
Further south at Five Mile Creek, Kamloops Augering and Boring Ltd. is putting in a steel culvert — 2.5 metres in diametre — underneath the highway.
The work is done completely underground by driving in a large pipe, pulling out the dirt, and welding it section by section with no open excavation, McLeod said.
There are about 65 people working on the project, 35 for Cantex and the rest with Fortis and Kamloops Augering and Boring Ltd.
“Most of the crew is local,” McLeod said.
The project has been great for Williams Lake Indian Band, said Coun. Willie Sellars.
“Cantex has been working with WLIB from the beginning,” Sellars said, noting the four-laning is going to benefit the band’s residential and commercial infrastructure project and its golf course along Highway 97 with improved access and exposure to traffic.
“The work is right in our backyard and has created over 20 jobs for our community members, ranging from labourers to equipment operators. These jobs are changing lives and this project is not only benefiting the Williams Lake Indian Band but also the local economy. Very exciting for us and this area.”
Chief Ann Louie said a highlight so far was the marking of Remembrance Day by her community with Cantex.
“This was exciting both for the band and company,” Louie said. “They lined up their equipment, we had a moment of silence, read out names of our veterans and our elders said a prayer and sang a couple of drum songs.”
Louie said it was a great way to showcase the relationship between the company and the community and also have the community members who are working with Cantex participate and honour the community’s veterans while showing pride in their employment.
By the time the project pauses for the winter, the sub-grades will be in and cut down to where they are needed, McLeod said.
“Hopefully by the middle of April or by May 1 we will be ready to start up again. It all depends on the weather,” he added.
Public driving through the 6.2 kilometre stretch of the road work have obeyed the speed limits for the most part, McLeod said.
“People don’t realize the construction speed zones are about their safety too,” he added.
The $47 million dollar upgrade also makes intersection improvements at Peters Drive, Chief Will Yum Gas Bar, and the Mission Road and Moose Drive intersections, while improving safety and access at Lexington and Sutton Roads by eliminating the at-grade intersections and replacing them with a grade-separated intersection to the east.
Here is a slideshow of photos taken during the Tribune’s tour.