Preparing for Road Construction in Western Canada

Road Arrow with Stones Balance on Sky - 3D Rendering

The summer of 2021 will bring major road construction delays.  The Government of British Columbia has announced that they will be proceeding with the modernisation of the Trans-Canada Highway and will be tackling one of the most difficult stretches left to be fully-twinned: the short stretch along the Kicking Horse Canyon.

Those who have driven Highway 1 from the AB-BC border to Kamloops will appreciate the challenge BC road crews face in twinning this stretch of road.  For a period of one month starting in mid-April, the Trans-Canada Highway will be completely closed just east of Golden, BC so crews can do critical work that cannot be safely done through intermittent closures.  There will likely be additional closures before and after for other construction activities.

During this closure, traffic will have to detour on Highways 93 and 95 to get around the closure which is estimated to add 1.5 hours to the trip from Castle Junction to Golden; those driving heavy trucks will likely see much larger delays due to the steep grades along the way.

This is an extreme example of road construction delays, but it is a reminder that the routes we take for granted can change and the trucking industry must adapt.  This will certainly not be the only detour cross-Canada drivers will face as spring arrives in the west in 2021.

This article will now pass along some information about road construction in the western provinces aimed at the professional truck driver.  The intention here is to help drivers who are less-familiar with western Canada anticipate the challenges that road construction season presents them when driving across the Prairies and through the Rocky Mountains.

Road Construction in British Columbia

The mountainous landscape of British Columbia is a challenging environment for road builders and road users alike.  It is not easy to build roads through the mountains, and when the work is done, it is not easy to drive them.

Road signs that indicate curve speed, grade, and other road hazards must be obeyed.  Many rollovers occur because the driver simply did not respect the curve speed.

When driving through BC, keep on the lookout for orange road construction signs.  Accidents and other emergency scenes will normally be identified to oncoming traffic through the use of advance warning signs.  In all situations, always start to slow down when you see these signs.  Due to the many curves and tall trees it is hard to see far ahead, so construction zones can easily catch you off guard.

It is common to have to stop and wait during road construction events; this is because many construction sites only keep one lane open for alternating traffic, and they use flag persons, escort vehicles, and other traffic control devices to allow alternating vehicle movement through the zone.

Be sure to check BC’s road report website DriveBC for up-to-date road reports.  Here you can find highway cameras, road conditions in real-time, and current construction events.

Road Construction in Alberta

If you drive across Alberta on the Trans-Canada Highway you will get to see the transition from rugged mountains to flat prairies and vice versa.  Extreme cold and difficult terrain cause road damage that keeps road crews busy during the summer months.

Depending on where you are in Alberta, you may see road construction coming while you are still several kilometers away or you may face the same challenges described above in the section on BC.  Most construction zones are set up with speed transitions that slow traffic incrementally.  If you are in a truck, though, start slowing down as soon as you see the signs.

On extremely hot days when new asphalt is being paved, there is another reason to slow down: rock and asphalt spray.  If you want to keep your truck clean and not have to spend significant amounts of time cleaning tar off your rig, keep your speed down.

Be sure to check AB’s road report website 511 Alberta for up-to-date road reports.

Road Construction in Saskatchewan

The monotonous landscape of Saskatchewan can lull a driver to sleep.  Do not get complacent: just because the roads are mostly flat and the curves are mostly gentle, there are steep grades in river valleys, rough roads, and deceptively-sharp curves in places that are not well marked.  Your full attention is required.

Construction zones are the same: you will come upon them quickly and may find that there is little notice.  If you see flashing lights and signs ahead, start slowing down immediately so you are not caught off guard.

The prairie landscape is especially dangerous when you are tired.  The driving seems to be easier and some drivers lose focus.  Rest when you need to, even if you have hours left in your logbook.

Be sure to check SK’s road report website Highway Hotline for up-to-date road reports.

Road Construction in Manitoba

Flooding and extreme temperatures cause road damage in Manitoba that require repairs during the spring and summer months.  Plan on encountering delays during road construction season.

There is constant work being done to improve the bypasses around Winnipeg, so plan on unexpected road construction, rail crossings, and traffic lights when using the bypass roads around this city.Be sure to check MB’s road report website Manitoba 511 for up-to-date road reports.

Conclusion

For most of Canada, road construction season is still several months away.  So why are we talking about it now?
We are discussing this topic now because road construction can often be anticipated.  Each western province has an online resource that tells you where major construction events are; see the links in the sections above.  Some major events like the Kicking Horse Canyon 2021 project are so significant that notice is being put out now so carriers can plan accordingly.

You must always be on the lookout for closures, emergency scenes, and other unplanned events.  If you also get into the habit of researching your route ahead of time and checking road reports during your stops, you can make more accurate plans and be in greater control of your trip.