While no funds have been allocated to the $400 million project to twin from the end of the existing four-lane section near Sherbrooke Creek to the western border of the park, the federal agency has released its detailed impact analysis for public review.
Parks Canada officials say the project, known as phase IVB, aims to improve safety for people, reduce the number of animals struck and killed by vehicles and improve flow of traffic and goods on Canada’s national highway.
“We’re seeing increasing traffic, somewhere around a two per cent increase in volume every year,” said Terry McGuire, the Yoho-TCH twinning coordinator.
According to Parks Canada, annual average daily traffic counts are 7,500 vehicles. In summer, that figure grows to about 14,500 vehicles and it’s predicated to hit 19,000 vehicles in 30 years.
In this section of highway, there were 234 collisions, including 132 people left with injuries and five fatalities, between 2012-16. More up-to-date figures were unavailable.
“Right now, we’re seeing accident rates 22 per cent higher than similar sections of highway elsewhere,” said McGuire.
“Delay and heavy traffic volumes and accidents all have cumulative effects.”
As part of the proposed mitigation work, there would be wildlife crossings located every 1.5 to two kilometres to help with wildlife movement and connecting habitat.
The proposal includes three overpasses and 16 underpasses.
McGuire said more information on wolverine movements has come to light leading up to this new phase of twinning, adding that there are many species that get struck and killed by vehicles in this section of highway, including mountain goats and elk.
“One of the areas we’ve seen heavy mortality over the years has been on black bears,” he said.
“Part of our mitigations is building upon a lot of our success and knowledge we’ve gained over 20 years of monitoring various crossing structures in Banff.”
In addition, aquatics habitat is top of mind. Culverts at four creeks are being replaced with full span bridges to help fish movement across the highway.
“We’re also looking at this because of the aspects of severe weather and having bridges able to accommodate these larger storms and events we’re seeing,” McGuire said.
Consultation on the draft detailed impact analysis for phase IVB runs Jan.27-Feb. 28. Information can be found at www.parkscanada.ca/yoho-transcanada.
An open house is being held at the Field Community Centre on Tuesday (Feb. 4) from 5-7 p.m.
“Let us know if there are any impacts we may have missed or not fully considered,” McGuire said.