Skip to content

Highway 5 west finally opened

It's what everyone has been waiting to happen for weeks.Highway 5 west of Humboldt officially opened on August 6, not with a bang, but in a cloud of dust.
Highway 5 west of Humboldt opened to traffic on August 6. The road, though out of the water, is narrower than it was before the flood. It should be paved this week.

It's what everyone has been waiting to happen for weeks.Highway 5 west of Humboldt officially opened on August 6, not with a bang, but in a cloud of dust. The highway had been closed since July 2, when water from the sloughs that border a section of highway approximately seven kilometres west of Humboldt overflowed onto the road. To fix the problem, the provincial Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure (MHI) elevated the 800 metre section of highway by a metre, or about three feet, putting it between a foot to 18 inches above the water line.To built up this section of highway, they used 11,000 tonnes of gravel, 13,000 tonnes of coarse rock and clay, 2,600 tonnes of fractured rock and three layers of a geo-tech style fabric.On top of all the layers is a seal coat, a mixture of asphalt and gravel."We just put that on so we could get traffic moving as quick as possible, said Kirsten Leatherdale from MHI."We didn't want to have to wait any longer to get traffic moving."The speed limit on this section of highway has been reduced to 70 kilometres an hour."The highway's been narrowed now that we've built up," said Leatherdale. "It's a metre higher than it used to be, so it's narrowed and we have reflective posts on either side of the shoulders and we want to make sure people drive very carefully through that section."MHI is hoping to pave that section of road this week."When we do that, it will be down to one lane traffic and we'll have a pilot vehicle leading people through," said Leatherdale.Once they are finished paving, Leatherdale estimates the first part of fixing the road will have cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 million.

"It would have cost a lot whether we raised the highway underwater or raised the highway when it was dry," said Leatherdale."It still would have cost a lot to raise the highway as much as we have raised it. It is a lot of material we had to bring in to build it up that high."That will not be the end of construction on Hwy. 5 this year. MHI has plans to restore the highway further in the fall."(It is) pretty major construction and we're going to have to get out there and do the final grade and widen the highway, so it looks exactly like it used to," said Leatherdale.There is no set date for when they will begin construction again."We're in the process of hiring a contractor to do that work, so we have to have them in place before we can say when they're going to start," said Leatherdale.Although it may seem like it took a long time to raise the road, there were many reasons for the delays."I know there's maybe a sense out there that it took a really long time but there were a lot of unique challenges with this project," said Leatherdale, for instance that the highway was under water."The highway was like a sponge and we kept putting material on it and it kept pushing down, so we had to pack a huge amount of material on there," said Leatherdale.Another hurdle they had to overcome was hauling the materials to the site. Many of the gravel pits in the area are underwater, and the roads they would have normally used to haul the materials to the site were flooded. "When you have so much flooding in the area and you're trying to access materials, it can be a bit of a challenge," said Leatherdale."This project was a huge priority for the ministry, and our staff and our contractor had to be very resourceful and work as quickly as possible to restore the highway."