Construction of the Dry Gulch Bridge on the Coquihalla Highway. (TransBC)

Construction of the Dry Gulch Bridge on the Coquihalla Highway. (TransBC)

30 years later: Stories from the Coquihalla

Over 30 years later, the extraordinary piece of infrastructure is still admired

In 1973 when the need for viable transportation routes between growing cities called for a direct route between Hope, Merritt and Kamloops, with a subsequent connection Eastbound to the Okanagan Valley, developers set out on a journey to plan the route of a highway that would span across southwestern B.C. and serve as an efficient alternative to the Trans-Canada Fraser Canyon route.

Nine million tonnes of gravel, 700,000 dump truck loads of dirt, 26,000 tonnes of steel and 12 years later: phase one of three construction phases for the Coquihalla highway was completed.

READ MORE: B.C. government has invested $15 million into provincial arts council over the next three years

Ten thousand workers braved the harsh working conditions, blowing out thousands of hectares of rock and rough terrain to create the pathway for construction.

Although not many of these workers are around today, their masterpiece is still admired by all, 30 years after its inception.

“My uncle, that has since passed away, was one of the superintendent[s] on the job and I remember seeing an old 8 mm video of him flying over the route in a helicopter and pictures he took as the project went on as he loved his camera,” wrote Randy Jackson in memory of his late family member. “I was lucky enough to even been able to travel the highway before it was open and remember how strange it was with know other cars around.”

The late Bill Kobenter, who worked on the Coquihalla, used to research the geometric design standards for the engineers and civil technicians that worked on the highway.

His son, Robert Kobenter recalled old memories of his father in a string of comments on TransBC’s website.

“He always prided himself in working with a dedicated team of knowledgeable and skilled co-workers. He, like many, believed passionately in the domain, the discipline and the work. Reading your comments brought back a smile and many memories.”

The highway was known to have had environment and fishery experts consult the building process along the way.

One writer pointed out that, “Caribou had migratory routes that traverse the area where the Coquihalla was built and that tunnels were built specifically for animal migration.” Approximately 90,000 metres of fencing was installed in order keep animals out of harms way.

READ MORE: Kelowna starts annual road pavement program

A symbol of provincial infrastructure and pride, the Coquihalla even has a bumper sticker dedicated to its ferocity: “I DROVE THE COQUIHALLA”.

So if you don’t have any plans over the long weekend, take a car down through the boonies and join the fraternity of Coquihalla enthusiasts.


David Venn
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at david.venn@kelownacapnews.com
Follow us on Facebook | Twitter

Just Posted

Cowichan District Hospital. (File photo)
Guest column: The story of a surgery in Cowichan

In homage to the Cowichan District Hospital and its surgical team

Motorcyclists in the hundreds depart from Duncan on a South Island ride in honour of the Kamloops 215. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Ride for the Kamloops 215 takes over Trans-Canada Highway

“My family was in residential schools for three generations. On the day… Continue reading

(The winning Lady of the Lake candidates demonstrate their talents during the annual Opportunity Night, Wednesday, June 8. Mary Batyi, left, does a Highland Dance routine, accompanied by a bagpiper; Jorden Matson, centre, shows people her artwork while telling the crowd what her inspirations are; Amber Bell tells people about competitive swimming, before providing a virtual demonstration.” (Tyler Clarke/Lake Cowichan Gazette, June 15, 2011)
Flashback: Water meters, ‘Porky’, and Lady of the Lake

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson has been combing through old… Continue reading

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Not securing your load could cost you big

An object of any sort falling off of the vehicle in front of you is definitely a surprise

Jared Popma recently streamed a live concert from the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre. (Ashley Daniel Foot photo)
21-year-old jazz artist talks favourite tunes and joys of music theory

Jared Popma recently streamed a concert from the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Most Read