The provincial transportation ministry is planning to upgrade the Central Babine Lake Highway, which runs between Topley and Granisle, as part of a series of projects taking place in northern B.C. this year.
The news garnered cautious optimism from the mayor of Granisle, while the MLA for Nechako Lakes has said the province isn’t spending enough on the region’s roads.
Asked about highway initiatives planned for the area between Smithers and Prince George, a ministry spokesperson said that Central Babine Lake Highway— also called Highway 118, the 49-km stretch of road leading to Granisle — will be sealcoated beginning in the summer months.
The process is a type of resurfacing meant extend the lifespan of a road by sealing out moisture with compacted gravel and an asphalt-water mixture. Sealcoating is also planned for Mapes Road, near Vanderhoof.
Granisle mayor Linda McGuire welcomed the news — but with a note of caution, saying that the province hadn’t formally announced the project yet.
“Granisle is always hopeful and welcomes any news surrounding improvements to our Hwy 118 stretch of road,” she said in an email to the Lakes District News.
“With the additional and increased logging traffic over the past few years utilizing Highway 118, more wear and tear becomes more noticeable,” she said, adding that the route’s condition was fair, but that it could use additional care and attention.
Other projects include an ongoing expansion of Highway 16 to four lanes, a familiar sight on a 3.4-km stretch just outside of Prince George. Several “intersections upgrades” are also taking place in that area, including changes meant to improve safety and pedestrian access, as part of a project that’s in its final year of construction, according to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Work is also slated to begin this summer on resurfacing some 36 km of highway between Josephine Road, east of Prince George, and Hillcrest Way, east of Vanderhoof.
John Rustad, the B.C. Liberal MLA for Nechako Lakes, said he was glad the projects were advancing. But he said that John Horgan’s NDP government is spending less on the district than previous provincial Liberal governments.
The provincial transportation ministry’s spending in the region over the past year amounts to between one-half and one-third of average annual spending over the past 12 years, said Rustad.
“Safety improvements and maintenance are critical for the people of Nechako Lakes,” said Rustad in an email. “The people of Nechako Lakes deserve to see the same level of historic investments to maintain and improve our roads.”