Trail users propose 70 Mile House underpass

Green Lake Snowmobile Club looking for legal highway 97 crossing at 70 Mile House

  • Jul. 4, 2012 2:00 p.m.

The Green Lake Snowmobile Club [GLSC] is pursuing the development of a legal road crossing across Highway 97 at 70 Mile House.

Club president Peter McKie wrote a letter to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) in April, asking it to consider the club’s proposal and the two options presented.

McKie says his club wants an underpass or safe and legal surface crossing at 70 Mile hub for snowmobiles, ATVs, cycling and walking to connect the multi-use trails west of the highway to the Green Lake trail system on the east side.

“Right now, [GLSC snowmobiles] do cross the highway. We have permits, but it’s really not marked or anything.”

Originally his club wanted a legal crossing with signage indicating snowmobiles cross the highway there, but he explains after working with local MoTI personnel, it was determined an underpass could also accommodate horses, so they put in both proposals.

“An underpass was definitely the way to go. The safest crossing is the best for us, too.”

The club is also requesting an extension of about 1.8 kilometres in the Barnett Perimeter/Green Lake Trail management agreement GLSC has with the province, to reach Highway 97 and legally cross some railway tracks.

In addition to safe and legal crossings, key benefits cited in the proposal include economic benefits from the connection of the current Bonaparte and Gold Rush trails.

McKie says it is “only logical” to have a well-maintained Gold Rush Trail system providing users safe access to fuel, lodging and food.

This would also boost business in Cariboo communities along the lengthy trail that spans from Clinton to Wells, he notes.

Noting the project is still in the preliminary stages, MoTI Cariboo district manager Todd Hubner says it is “much more viable” if some of the funding can be sourced by the user clubs.

“We are working with the group. Certainly there are going to be some challenges along the way with the costs, particularly with the highway crossing, so we’re just exploring some options at this point.”

If the ministry decides it is a viable project, Hubner explains it will then be put into consideration for future financial plans.

McKie says other than small trail maintenance grants from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, his club hasn’t found any grants available for its projects.

TNRD Area E (Bonaparte Plateau) Director Sally Watson says she thinks a crossing under the highway is an “excellent” idea, but expensive.

“I think the underpass is ambitious. I’d like to see it done, and I’d like to see it done so that it would be safe to take horses underneath [the highway] as well as snowmobiles.

“But if we can do it, that will make a real drawing card for snowmobile traffic and visitors going on snowmobile trips.

She notes the carriage driving event in 70 Mile House has now grown to be likely the largest in Canada, attracting more and more visitors who will want to take their horses and rigs out on the trails.

“It’s a big network of trails. We’re trying to map them and GPS them out for equestrian trails.”

While an underpass is much more costly than a level crossing, she notes the 100 km/h limit all along the Highway 97 corridor at 70 Mile House, a surface crossing there would be “very dangerous.”

While the TNRD doesn’t have funding for the project, Watson says perhaps a Northern Development Initiative Trust grant might be available due to the economic development aspects.

In the meantime, McKie explains GLSC has involved the key community stakeholders who appear to be on board with the proposal.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the businesses in 70 Mile, and actually all along the Gold Rush Trail from Clinton to Wells.”