You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

B.C. highway travel restrictions challenge family connections for the holidays

Vancouver Sun logo Vancouver Sun 2021-12-08 Derrick Penner
Ramona Wildeman would normally hop in her Jeep to drive the 4 1/2 hours to visit her mother. Highway closures cut off that option and mean her family has to fly their mother to Vancouver for Christmas. © Provided by Vancouver Sun Ramona Wildeman would normally hop in her Jeep to drive the 4 1/2 hours to visit her mother. Highway closures cut off that option and mean her family has to fly their mother to Vancouver for Christmas.

Flooding that washed out the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt on Nov. 14 cut off the easy highway option for Ramona Wildeman to bring her mother, who has cancer, from Oliver to Vancouver for Christmas.

Her family is fortunate that they can afford to fly her mother to the Lower Mainland for an extended holiday visit — avoiding the hassle of highway closures and travel restrictions.

But Wildeman realizes not everybody has this luxury, noting that between pandemic travel restrictions and wildfires last summer, “everybody has been so disconnected for such a long period of time.”

“Nothing is easy and this really impacts everybody’s mental state,” Wildeman said. “So I really feel for people who don’t have the support systems or wherewithal to figure out a solution.”

The Coquihalla Highway remains closed by washouts between Hope and Merritt with temporary repairs expected to take place until the end of January. Highway 1 in the Fraser Canyon also remains closed.

The province lifted the order restricting travel on Highway 7 to essential traffic on Monday, but essential travel-only restrictions remain for Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton and Highway 99 between north of Pemberton and Lillooet. These are being enforced with checkpoints at either end of restricted sections, according to the Transportation Ministry.

Tuesday, the province had no update on potential temporary openings for non-essential travel on highways 3 and 99 over the holidays after Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said Friday that those could be in the works.

Wildeman said the restrictions leave her with questions about “who gets to decide what is essential?”

Video: Albertans who were stranded in B.C. for days begin to make it home as airlines increase flights (Global News)


The province’s list of essential categories includes emergency services, health care, commercial transportation and public transit, including intercity bus service.

Wildeman’s mother was diagnosed with bone cancer in her spine in April, 2020 and at the height of treatments she was hopping in her Jeep for the 4½-hour drive over the Coquihalla to visit close to every 2½ weeks.

“I would consider that essential,” Wildeman said. “But then there is the gas (rationing) situation.”

Drivers can make detour through Washington state down Interstate 5 and along U.S. Highways 2 and 97 via Oroville.

The U.S. doesn’t require a negative COVID-19 test to enter at land crossings and Canada has suspended its pre-arrival test requirement to cross back into the country due to the geographical constraints in B.C.

However, a trip from Vancouver to Kelowna is close to a nine-hour drive on that detour, according to Google Maps.

That should be a 5½-hour trip on Highway 3, according to Google Maps, but is considerably longer for essential vehicles now due to congestion on the single west-to-east route open through the province, said Glen Desjardine, operations manager for the coach service Ebus.

“All the commercial vehicles, all the private vehicles, they’re all using the same highway,” Desjardine said. “So it really congests that what has almost become a secondary highway.”

The single daily trip Ebus is making between Vancouver and Kelowna now takes about seven hours, Desjardine said. Between Vancouver and Kamloops, normally a 4½-hour trip is more like six hours, Desjardine said.

“Very, very trying times,” Desjardine said.

Vancouver International Airport spokesperson Megan Batchelor said YVR has done what it can to help airlines expand services to some affected destinations. Air Canada, Westjet, Air North and Pacific Coastal Airlines have all added flights or increased capacity to destinations including Kelowna, Kamloops and Penticton.


More from Vancouver Sun

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon