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An Exploration of the Past, Present and Future of British Columbia’s Highways


The British Columbia road network connects communities and facilitates the movement
of goods across the province and the rest of Canada. The road network forms a vital
part of the pacific gateway, providing one of the primary connections between Asia and
North America from docks located in Vancouver and Prince Rupert. With a booming
economy growing in Asia and increasing export traffic, the importance of maintaining
and upgrading BC’s highway network infrastructure has never been higher. Several
factors from past to present have driven the development of BC’s diverse road
infrastructure, including:
• The fur trade
• The gold rush
• Logging
• Tourism
• Oil and Gas Development
• Urban and Rural development,
• Agriculture
• National Defense
• Container movement
• And most recently, the potential for Liquefied Natural Gas
The BC highway network has developed steadily over the past century. In more recent
times, several major highway infrastructure projects have been undertaken. Projects
such as the Sea-to-Sky Highway, the Coquihalla Highway, Port Mann Highway 1
project, the Cariboo Connector program, and the Kicking Horse Canyon make up just a
portion of the billions of dollars of infrastructure improvements constructed within BC.
Transportation design in BC faces several unique challenges owing to the diverse
natural terrain within the province. Thousands of kilometres of infrastructure wind
through steep mountainous terrain, cross large river valleys, and navigate through or
around environmentally sensitive and fragile ecosystems. Past designers have had to
devise innovative solutions to handle the unique situations found in BC to maintain the
movement of goods and people through the country. Designers are now faced with
upgrading this existing infrastructure and adapting to the new challenges facing the 21st
century such as alternative project delivery models, rising sea levels, coastal erosion,
soil stability, and ever increasing environmental awareness all within the context of
sustainability, increasing safety, reliability, and mobility.
This paper will draw attention to some of the innovative solutions and construction
methods used by engineers of the past to cope with the terrain and environment of BC.
As a comparison, current modern day projects will also be featured, illustrating how current technologies and methods tackle some of these same issues and constraints.
Feats of engineering that were not possible in the past will be highlighted. Finally, the
future of transportation projects and design in BC will be discussed, highlighting the
fundamental and evolving objectives and issues designers will be faced with moving
forward into the future.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Geometric Design - Learning from the Past
Ngieng, G.
Symons, R.
Sloane, Z.
Conquist, J.
Geometric design