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West Kootenay/Boundary blues: charting the terrible tarmacs of the Kootenay

This is debatable.

One of the province's major auto insurance companies has released its top 30 worst roads in the province and only one West Kootenay strip of pavement has made the cut.

BCAA's public polling of the province's 20 worst roads has named the chunk of road from Balfour to Kaslo and over to Galena Bay (through Nakusp) — a well travelled stretch of road for tourists in the summer — as one of the worst in the province.

And if anyone lives in those areas or has been down Selkirk Highway 31 since the 12-foot glaciers receded from your front door, you'll be aware of the cycling herd on pilgrimage through the 175-kilometre treacherous trail of tears in those northern West Kootenay reaches.

However, their presence comes with some risk, since there is very little allowance for cycling, or a spot of refuge for ailing vehicles, or even a forgiving allowance for a quick glance at the spectacular scenery that abounds (a glance, mind you, accompanied by a slight, very slight, encroachment on the highway lines).

It is for the fact there were "poor/no bike paths" that the highway made it in at number 20 on the top 20 worst roads in B.C. ranking.

But consider the goat path which is the Slocan Valley's Highway 6 north of Vallican. It is one of the most twisted tracts of tarmack in the region, perhaps the province, with no allowance for a shoulder — mountain on one side, river on the other — and plenty of on-road obstacles to choose from: rock slides, strut-swallowing potholes fresh from the freeze-thaw of spring, wandering and oblivious deer and elk, and an evening rolling fog from the nearby Slocan River to shroud it all at the end of the day.

Those other provincial roads in the top 30 may have their claim to infamy, but if you've driven for any length of time in the West Kootenay or Boundary country, you'll have more than a few roads to stack up to — and undoubtedly beat — those manicured motorways of the Lower Mainland.

How about it? What are the worst West Kootenay roads in your estimation? Email us at, give us a few comments about your adventures on the road, or the reason for your rubber tire tribulations, and we'll make sure everyone else (50,000 readers per month) feels your pain.

Let the debate begin ...

What is a 'worst road'?

A 'worst road' is any road or paved infrastructure—including bridges and tunnels—which:

  • are most in need of improvement or repair
  • have damaging pot holes
  • need resurfacing
  • are unsafe and contribute to frequent accidents
  • are often heavily congested

Rank Road (Nearest) - community, # of votes, main issue cited

  1. Ospika Boulevard South Prince George 552 Damaged pavement
  2. Enderby-Mabel Lake Road Enderby 403 Damaged pavement
  3. Patullo Bridge Surrey-New West 242 Congestion
  4. Harris Road Saturna Island 147 Damaged pavement
  5. Silver Star Road Vernon 117 Damaged pavement
  6. Pacific Rim Highway Vancouver Island 109 Damaged pavement
  7. Hope Princeton Highway Southern B.C. 85 Damaged pavement
  8. Westside Road Falkland 81 Damaged pavement
  9. Coalmont Road Princeton 71 Damaged pavement 
  10. George Massey Tunnel Richmond-Delta 62 Congestion 1
  11. Iron Workers Memorial Bridge Vancouver - N.Van 56 Poor/no bike paths
  12. Trans-Canada Hwy Revelstoke Revelstoke 49 Damaged pavement
  13. North Nechako Road Prince George 48 Congestion
  14. Daly Road Surrey 47 Damaged pavement
  15. Oak Street Bridge Vancouver-Richmond 46 Damaged pavement
  16. West Coast Road Shirley (Van. Island) 46 Damaged pavement
  17. Domano Boulevard Prince George 34 Damaged pavement
  18. Westside Road Kelowna -Vernon 33 Damaged pavement
  19. Bamfield Road Port Alberni 32 Damaged pavement
  20. Balfour-Kaslo-Galena Bay Hwy West Kootenay 31 Poor/no bike paths

About the BCAA campaign

BCAA's 2011 Worst Roads campaign was conducted over four weeks, from May 3 to 24. Drivers were invited to nominate the road (or bridge or tunnel) in or near their community that they feel is most in need of improvement.

BCAA will provide lists of all roads that received multiple votes to the responsible municipality or the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.