The Toby Creek gravel access road to Jumbo Creek Valley has been officially reopened after a section five kilometres past Panorama village gave way in a landslide on April 29.
Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting General Manager Jim Conley says although the road was re-opened on Friday, May 11 and is considered safe, the public must exercise caution and respect the signage when travelling on it.
“We did work to get it back in operation as quickly as possible but safety is the critical thing,” said Conley. “It’s about 60 feet from that road down to the creek.”
On Sunday, April 29, a member of the public notified Conley’s office of the slide. Mainroad — the company responsible for road and highway maintenance in the region — dispatched staff to the area to put up barricades, clean it up and make it stable. Conley said the cause of the road giving way was determined to be the spring freshet, or water run-off.
“If we have the snow melt too quickly, you end up with a lot of water running off which can impact roadways,” he said, “and in this case, we had water run off the hillside north of the road, and by saturating that road with water, what’s happened is it’s given way a part of it on the south side.”
Mainroad reinstated the road on Wednesday (May 9) then employees met with a Ministry of Transportation geotechnical engineer at the site on Friday (May 11) who assessed and officially confirmed the safety of the road.
Whereas normally two vehicles travelling east and west fit on the road, the section impacted by the slide has been reduced to single-lane traffic. Mainroad is waiting for the Ministry of Transportation to come up with a long-term solution for opening up the second lane.
“No further failure of the road is expected,” Conley said. “At this point in time, until we get further direction as to the long range plan, what we’ve done is we’ve made sure the road is safe for people passing through.”
These measures include barricades on either side that drive traffic onto the strong and stable part of the road.
“One of the biggest considerations up there right now are the rafting companies which are just starting up business for the season,” said Conley. “We have forestry companies who do work up in that area… and some recreational tourism companies as well.
“It’s not a high usage road, it’s a gravel road in the backhills, but there is still quite a bit of traffic there for those kinds of uses.”
A temporary sign positioned at the Toby Creek bridge just before the Wilmer turnoff to alert drivers of the slide was, according to a Panorama Mountain Village Resort employee, “confusing people.”
“A lot of people were calling thinking the road [to Panorama village] was closed,” she told The Echo.