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Road, rail services now open on Sea-to-Sky highway

PORTEAU COVE, B.C. -- Road and CN rail service has resumed on the Sea-to-Sky highway, after work crews leaped ahead...

PORTEAU COVE, B.C. — Road and CN rail service has resumed on the Sea-to-Sky highway, after work crews leaped ahead of schedule to remove debris and pave a section of the highway at Porteau Cove, which was badly damaged in a rock slide that occurred a week ago.

According to, provincial geotechnical engineer Mike Oliver said scalers and heavy equipment operators worked through the night Friday, stabilizing the cliff and clearing debris for a Saturday night opening.

“We’ve removed 75% of the mud pile,” Oliver said. “We (did) blast(ing) all through the night on the large rocks in the mud pile, and we’re continuing to do that.”

Working from the top of the cliff down, scalers hanging from ropes used crowbars to pry away loose material, while heavy equipment was used to “muck” the debris off the side of the road and into the ocean. Several hundred tonnes of boulders were trucked away for use in construction elsewhere. Once the last of the debris was cleared, the road was repaved. Oliver estimated the cleanup costs to be more than $1,000 an hour, with a crew of about 20 people working around the clock.

On Friday, crews used small amounts of explosives to smooth out the cliff face above the slide so the debris cleanup could begin. Crews removed about 300 cubic metres of rock thought to be unstable with each of the blasts using about 10 kg of explosives each time by placing dynamite sticks in holes drilled in the face. Earlier in the week, they used about 30 kg of explosives in 34 different holes, two sticks in each, to remove 3,000 cubic metres of rock.

Oliver said regular inspections are done on the cliffs, but some hazards are not detectable.

“We plan on enhancing (the inspection) program over the next year-and-a-half on this road to . . . eliminate the probability of this slide happening again,” he said. “It’s actually a world-class program . . . There’s a risk of driving in British Columbia, and the risk of rock fall is much less than the risk of injury in a car accident.”

Oliver said crews doing highway improvements on the Sea-to-Sky were “too far away” to have caused the slide through construction vibrations.

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