NEWS RELEASE · 9th September 2011
Heavy equipment and fuel will arrive by barge Sunday in the community of Stewart, and will be mobilized in efforts to reopen Highway 37A. Stewart has been cut off since Tuesday when heavy rains washed out the only road into the community.
Over 180mm of rain fell within a 48-hour period earlier this week, resulting in a washout at Bitter Creek Bridge, approximately 10 km east of Stewart. Several other washouts also occurred on Highway 37A, including in Big Canyon, 20 km from Stewart.
Crews from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and its road and bridge maintenance contractor, Billabong Road and Bridge Maintenance, have been working around the clock to restore access to the community. They will begin construction of a temporary steel girder bridge at Bitter Creek to restore single-lane access as soon as components arrive.
Crews need water levels to recede before they can fully assess the damage. Until a full assessment is made, there is no firm timeline for reopening. However, crews are continuing to work from both ends of the affected portion of highway to have it open as soon as possible.
A number of tourists have been stranded in the community by the road closure. The ministry is making arrangements to have those visitors and their vehicles evacuated as soon as possible.
The barge will also bring in groceries for the community.
Five mudslides and floods have also forced the closure of Highway 37 between Meziadin Junction and the Burrage Creek Bridge, approximately 176km north of Meziadin Junction.
Crews are working to open the road to single lane traffic as soon as possible. There is no local detour.
Travellers intending to head north on Hwy 37 should use the Alaska Highway (Highway 97) as an alternate route.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Blair Lekstrom is qoted as stating;
"The importance of Highway 37A to the residents of Stewart cannot be understated. That's why crews are working so hard to try and re-establish the highway link to the community. We're bringing in extra equipment and fuel by barge to add to our efforts, and I thank everyone in the community for their patience and resilience during such a difficult time."
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Shirley Bond is quoted as stating;
"Our number one priority is public safety, so Emergency Management BC is working closely with local officials to ensure that we are ready to assist and support wherever necessary. Concerns about supplies and fuel are being addressed in partnership with municipal and regional district representatives and the Ministry of Transportation."
District of Stewart Mayor Angela Brand Danuser is quoted as stating;
"While we're thankful that no one was hurt by the bridge washout, the closure of the highway is definitely impacting our local economy. We look forward to it reopening as quickly as possible, so our forestry, mining and tourism industries can get up and running again. I applaud the efforts of everyone working hard to reopen the road, including the local people and equipment on the job."