Slide closes highway, again

A rock slide closed Highway 3 in late mid-November.

Despite extensive work this past spring and summer, heavy rains helped bring down large rocks on Highway 3 Monday evening.

The slide happened about 4:20 p.m. Monday evening. All three lanes were closed for about four hours. One lane was reopened at about 8 p.m. The ministry stated if conditions changed that lane would be closed overnight.

About five cubic metres of rock debris fell in the west lane.

Ministry crews were on site Monday night. A geotechnical assessment was expected to be completed first thing Tuesday morning.

A ministry spokesperson told the Review the entire roadway could not be reopened before the geotechnical assessment.

“Road will be closed until geo tech assessment is complete to ensure it will be safe for travel,” the spokesperson stated in an email Monday evening.

Before it reopened, traffic was re-routed meaning many motorists determined on making their destinations were forced to back track a significant distance.

East travelling traffic was detoured into Princeton to Highway 5A and traffic at Osoyoos and Penticton/Kaleden Junction will be detoured via Highway 97/97C.

The news of the slide travelled quickly through news social media sites with many locals voicing frustration.

“Well good thing we are not going anywhere. They have been going to fix that for months here we go again,” a commenter on the Review Facebook page stated.

At least three significant slides have taken place in the last two years on that stretch of highway about nine kilometres west of Keremeos

The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure completed the second phase of a two-phase project to reduce the impact of slides just last month.

In the last year the ministry has removed about 35,000 cubic metres of rock debris and dug a ditch more than a half-kilometre long to create a large catchment area.

Phase one of the project saw the construction of a three-metre high concrete block wall in the west slow lane to increase rock catchment.

Prior to this slide the last major slide occurred in early December 2014 when rocks came tumbling down. The slide occurred about 3:40 p.m. meaning some children were stranded in Keremeos and not able to return home from school.

The community and the school pitched in and found places for the students to stay. The highway was closed overnight and not reopened until about noon the next day.

Previous to that slide, a major slide occurred in January 2014 bringing down boulders the size of pickup trucks that came crashing down onto the roadway hitting several vehicles and hospitalizing one person.

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