Revel-stuck: The Trans-Canada roadblock

This photo from 2002 shows what can happen on the Trans-Canada Highway... at least around Three Valley Gap. Photo courtesy of Natural Resources Canada
This photo from 2002 shows what can happen on the Trans-Canada Highway… at least around Three Valley Gap. Photo courtesy of Natural Resources Canada
John Devitt
John Devitt

Ho Ho Ho Merry Crashmas!  It’s that time of year again.   When the roads get mushy, everyone temporarily forgets how to drive, and venturing onto the Trans Canada Highway becomes a twisted game of Russian roulette behind a steering wheel.  Like it or not, Revelstoke is smack dab in the middle of the worst stretch of highway in Canada.

Although we often think of wintertime as the worst season to travel on our local stretch of Trans Canada Highway, truth is it is just as dangerous any time of year.  The usual suspects of potential ashphalt doom include; lack of passing lanes, tight turns, wet roads, lack of adequate lighting, avalanches, narrow bridges, cracked and broken pavement, massive potholes, thick slush, and heavy traffic.

Higher Ground conducted an unscientific poll recently and discovered the most common response to “I recently visited Revelstoke” or “I came from Revelstoke” is:  “How were the roads?”  Admittedly this response was closely followed by, “How was the snow?”  Like it or not, dangerous roads are synonymous with Revelstoke more so than skiing.

For many people who do not live in Revelstoke, getting stuck here or, at the very least getting a couple more gray hairs after driving through, is what ‘Revelstoke’ means.  Although for some, those memories of being Revel-stuck are filled with romantic images of a cozy B&B and an impromptu ski day away from work.  Either you take ownership of the negative and foster it into a positive, or you fight an uphill marketing battle to draw attention elsewhere.  Of course, there is a third ring to the circus, which is to focus on improving accessibility.

Hands down, Revelstoke will never become Whistler for a variety of reasons, the foremost being the issue of accessibility.  Airport expansion is costly, passenger rail is an implausible pipe dream, and so improvement of the highway is key.  Paving four lanes is the simplest method, but also the most costly and time consuming, best for a long-term strategy.  In the near term improving maintenance and lighting alone would go a long way to providing safe travel.  Would it be that difficult to add an extra plow in the winter and some light reflectors down the centre line?

Online there is often back and forth banter between Liberal and NDP disciples who argue if only we had a candidate from the governing party in our riding, then things would get done.  As luck would have it the Kootenay Columbia riding elected a candidate from the federal governing party in 2011.  With a 2013 budget pending it would be nice if the federal government had something in there that helped relieve congestion on the Trans Canada Highway.

Further than the immediate necessity for capital improvements, perhaps its time for the federal government to start thinking outside the box.  Many are familiar with Heather Mountain’s frequent mudslides, which occur near annually and cut access to the east (  Nothing is going to stop the steady collapse of this mountain.  The federal government should proactively begin examining methods to relocate the Trans Canada Highway around Heather Mountain.  It’s either that or put all our money into personal jetpack technology.

Summer, winter, spring or fall, whenever you dare drive onto the highway you take your life in your hands and place trust in the other drivers out there.  There are those who are absolutely terrified when travelling in the Revelstoke corridor of the TCH.  Others are so crippled by fear it literally prevents them from venturing out of town altogether.  Personally, I try not to think about it too often.  Whether I drive my car out of fear or serenity, I know the outcomes are not in my control.  I can do my best to drive safely and conscientiously, or not, but at the end of the day there are too many things that can happen out of my control.  All the same, there is constantly a sense of fatalistic dread.  Always that feeling that maybe I’ll be one of the unlikely ones that ends up as a white cross on the side of the road.

Sure, the Trans-Canada Highway is a topic that has been discussed ad nauseum, but that is the way it should be.  It should be of primary importance to everyone that lives here and visits here and should stay on our collective consciousness.  If it becomes commonplace to accept such dangerous driving conditions as the norm, than nothing will be done.  Until we see improvements, nothing will negate the real dangers and fears of travelling in our own neighbourhood.

Travel safely this holiday season!  Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination, stock a roadside emergency kit in your car, and help out others on the side of the road!

Check for latest road conditions and WRITE TO OUR MP DAVID WILKS AND MLA NORM MACDONALD in order to get something done around here!