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Second link between Lower Mainland and B.C.'s Interior is now open

Highway 99 reopens, now the second link from coast to Interior
Highway repair
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has been repairing damage dealt to B.C.'s major highways following a major rain event that began Sunday, November 14.

Another connection between the Lower Mainland and B.C.'s Interior is now open Saturday, with Highway 99 north of Pemberton reopening at noon.

All major roads connecting the province's coast to the Interior were heavily damaged by mudslides and washouts during a massive storm Sunday and Monday, but crews have been working non-stop to clear debris and reopen highways in recent days.

While Highway 3 east of Hope was reopened to essential travel ahead of schedule on Friday, Highway 99 was reopened Saturday. The bodies of four people who were killed in Monday's landslide on Highway 99 were recovered last week, and a fifth man who's believed to have been involved in the slide remains missing.

During Saturday's press conference, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said traffic on Highway 99 will be limited to smaller vehicles, no larger than a cube van. But the highway will be restricted to “essential travel,” like people returning to their primary residence.

“It's just because of the road condition there, we do not want heavy commercial vehicles on that route,” Fleming said.

“We don't want people using it as a commuter route just now. These restrictions are in place ... because that is a road that remains damaged and has highway crews working on it, and of course, it's still an active search and rescue and RCMP rescue [site].”

He warned travellers that high volumes of vehicles are expected on Highway 99, and motorists should be prepared to take their time.

Since Highway 3 was reopened Friday, Fleming said “a couple of hundred” commercial vehicles have travelled the highway, and the stretch from the Lower Mainland to Keremeos is taking truckers close to double the time it would usually take.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth noted that more rain is forecast to fall in the southwest of the province early next week.

“They're looking at about 20-40 mm of rain. Normally that wouldn't be an issue in terms of concern, but obviously given the current saturation that we have seen on the ground, we're following that very closely,” Farnworth said.

“We're watching very closely to make sure that everyone is aware, alerted and prepared.”

Crews in Abbotsford continue work to patch a 100-metre breach in the city's dike, before the rains return. The city is holding a press conference to update their situation at 2 p.m.