Highway 97 improvements between Sugar Cane and Lexington Road are one step closer after the B.C. Government and Williams Lake Indian Band reached a tentative agreement Wednesday.
“With the support of the WLIB we are very hopeful that construction will begin very shortly and should be completed by early 2017,” Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone said as he announced the tentative agreement at Coyote Rock Golf Course Thursday.
The $47-million project will see six kilometres of highway four-laned, as well as improved turning and deceleration lanes, including a new on-reserve frontage road to link the band’s new development lands to the highway.
“The Cariboo Connector is an absolutely essential corridor for trade and transportation and carries 2.3 million cars and trucks annually,” Stone said.
WLIB Indian Band Chief Ann Louie credited the band’s economic development team for its hard work to negotiate the project and thanked the ministry of transportation team for its willingness to work with the band.
“This project is a massive undertaking for our community in terms of employment, opportunities and ongoing economic development,” Louie said. “I want to acknowledge Lake Excavating for their willingness to create a partnership with the WLIB.”
Louie also thanked Stone and the province for staying engaged with the band during what has been a difficult process at times.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett said she had the pleasure of becoming an ally of Louie’s during the negotiations.
“It will enhance not just Williams Lake Indian Band’s economy but all of the region,” Barnett added.
WLIB councillor Willie Sellars described the project as another example of synergy and collaboration.
“We are super, super excited, ramped up and ready to go,” he smiled.