As road repairs continue on Hwy 37A east of Stewart, wait times because of these repairs are affecting commercial traffic and businesses.
“It’s a ripple effect,” explains chief administrative officer for Stewart Peter Weeber of transport trucks being slowed down.
The repairs are a result of extensive flooding in the area at the start of September, where the Bitter Creek bridge was taken out and chunks of Hwy 37A were washed away.
Currently, there are three piloted openings throughout the day in each direction, and then piloted openings every two hours throughout the night.
Stewart’s mayor, Angela Brand Danuser said this is hampering the volume of ore and logging truck drivers are able to bring into Stewart, as drivers work to try to line up transport schedules with the openings.
“You have to be in line at the time that it (the piloted convoy) leaves,” Brand Danuser said. “Show up a half an hour late and you have to wait.”
She added that it still can take up to an hour to navigate the section of road under repair when in a ministry piloted convoy.
And while she says the Ministry of Transportation is trying to work with industry, it is a catch-22 situation as they are forced to slow work to let traffic through.
Brand Danuser is concerned about truck drivers leaving their jobs to move on to different areas where there is nothing preventing them from moving the amount of material they want to.
“Truck drivers in general are in a huge demand right now,” she said, explaining they can leave to find jobs all over the north and Alberta.
“Getting them to stay in Stewart is quite the challenge.”
Weeber agreed there are a lot of truck drivers not transporting as much as they used to.
“That’s a big concern,” he said, explaining a lot of local businesses are operating on narrow margins, meaning small losses can have big effects.
Weeber adds the low volume of ore and logs is also affecting ships
as they wait for material.
“There’s huge dollars to bring those ships in,” Weeber explained, adding delays also affect local longshoremen waiting to load ships.
While truckers and others may be frustrated, workers repairing the road are trying to get as much done as possible before the winter snows halt construction.
District manager for the Bulkley-Stikine district Carl Lutz said they are doing everything they can to get both lanes of the road open.
Workers are repairing a 20 km section of road that was heavily damaged.
They are also close to finishing a second, temporary, bridge to cross Bitter Creek.
“What we will try and do this construction season is get the road to two lanes, and there will be further repairs next year,” Lutz said.
“It’s a challenge when you have such a tight time to fix the road, but everyone is working hard,” he added.