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RDCK, RDKB call on province to increase cell service on Highway 3

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
December 20th, 2021

With the prospect of increased traffic along Highway 3 the regional district has asked the province to address the lack of infrastructure along the roadway.

The board of directors for the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) have added their voice to a Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) request for cell service and towers to be added to the full length of the Highway 3 corridor “to facilitate the safety of travelers and first responders.”

With the indefinite closures of Highway 1 and Highway 5 — due to the events of Nov. 14 — the province declared Highway 3 would be the main corridor for transport to and from the Lower Mainland, but it comes with an expected 525 per cent increase in traffic.

As a result, there is major lack of infrastructure to support the increase in traffic with cellular tower sites along Highway 3, the Paulson Summit and Highway 33, noted the RDKB letter sent to the RDCK board for support.

“As you are acutely aware, cell coverage over the mountain passes on Hwy 3 is non-existent or limited at best. This poses a significant risk to the safety of the public and first responders,” the letter read.

If there was a need to report an incident on the highway people may need to drive significant distances along unfamiliar roads before they could call for help, it was argued.

“Emergency responders, in turn, may be called to accidents with limited information, putting their lives at risk when responding to emergencies on winter roads,” the letter read.

The provision of cell service aligns with the first two goals of the B.C. Emergency Management System to ensure the health and safety of responders and “saving lives,” the letter of resolution from the RDKB board argued.

It was noted that cell service carriers have access to “cellular on wheels” (COW) units that could be deployed to fulfill the request.

In addition to the resolution sent to the province, the RDKB Regional Emergency Program has contacted other emergency programs and emergency operation centres (EOC) that have Highway 3 corridors within their jurisdictions, with similar resource requests from other emergency management programs and EOCs expected to be made to the province.

Ramping up

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) data for the three main highways leading into the Lower Mainland recorded the following daily averages in November 2019:

  • Hwy 3 (past Hope) had an average daily vehicle volume in November of around 2,000;
  • Hwy 1 (Fraser Canyon past Hope) had an average daily vehicle volume in November of around 2,200; and
  • Hwy 5 (past Hope) has an average daily vehicle volume in November of around 8,500.

That means Highway 3 could see 12,500 vehicles per day, which represents a 525 per cent increase.

Source: RDKB staff report

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