The route linking Agassiz and Harrison is about to get wider and smoother thanks to the provincial government’s plan to improve Highway 7 and 9 with shoulder widening and resurfacing.
According to Kent mayor John Van Laerhoven, the District has been pushing for road improvements for decades.
“The District has been hoping for the ability for people to be able to cycle safely between Agassiz and Harrison for at least 30 years,” he said. “There was talk for many years about a bike path separate from the highway. This is at least a move towards making cycling a whole lot safer.”
The province’s road designs show plans for two-metre shoulders on both sides of Highway 7 and 1.5-metre shoulders on the north and south-bound lanes of Highway 9. The widening will require the relocation of BC Hydro and Telus poles.
Van Laerhoven hopes the wider lanes will get more people out and about.
“Anything to get us biking, walking safely is good news,” he said. “It will be much better for people to be able to cycle.”
Project manager Simon Lee said the improvements will make the roads safer for pedestrians and drivers too.
“I understand it’s a heavily used route between Agassiz and Harrison and it’s really the only way into Harrison. From what I hear, this is a project that has a lot of history, it’s been a long time coming. I’m happy to be able to take that and run with it.”
The Oregon Spotted Frog has called the highways’ ditches home for a long time. In fact, they were identified as critical habitat for the speckled amphibian.
The frogs, listed as endangered by the B.C. Frogwatch Program, have complicated District projects in the past, said Van Laerhoven.
“That’s been an issue for many, many years. And it causes all kinds of difficulties with ditch maintenance.”
Lee said his team includes a biologist who helped to prepare an Environmental Effects Assessment.
“This assessment outlines the specific habitat for the frogs and recommends construction windows where disruption will be the least impactful,” he wrote in an email to the Observer. “This is also submitted to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development for issuance of a Water Sustainability Act permit.”
The upgrade project also includes asphalt resurfacing on both highways.
“The road is in disrepair, it definitely needs resurfacing,” said Van Laerhoven. “I was much younger the last time it was totally done.”
Shoulder enhancements and resurfacing of Highway 7 will occur between Evergreen Drive to the east and just before Else Road to the west. Improvements on Highway 9 start at the four-way stop where the road intersects with Highway 7 and end at McPherson Road in Harrison.
The province also has plans to replace the Miami Creek culverts south of McCallum Road. Lee said the structure is aged and showing signs of collapse.
“If we’re going to go across here and do resurfacing and put in a new shoulder than we might as well replace the things that are broken,” he said.
Van Laerhoven said the project may be disruptive for residents but feels the long-term benefits outweigh the hassle.
“I think that at the end of the day, people will be pleased with what they get out of it.”
Construction is set to begin this summer and last into winter. For maps, designs and other information on the project, visit gov.bc.ca/hwy9shoulderenhancement.