In 2009, District of Chetwynd received a $50,000 grant from Northern Development through the Feasibility Studies program towards this $100,000 project. This has been a funding partnership of District of Chetwynd, Northern Development, and Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
2012- Located at the junction of Highways 97 and 29 and the CN Rail mainline, Chetwynd is the natural transportation hub of the Peace River area. In 2009, the District began a feasibility study to develop an economic assessment of Highway 97 and has identified constraints to the movement of goods as well as limitations on opportunities for economic growth.
The feasibility study, completed in partnership with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, evaluated existing low clearance rail crossings and bridges along Highway 97 to identify the current condition, identify opportunities which would be created by eliminating or improving clearance constraints, develop options for improvement, evaluate the costs and benefits of options, and develop recommendations for infrastructure improvements.
Update: Since the feasibility study was completed, the province has re-committed to regularly investigating the Pine Pass for improvements to safety and mobility. Recent construction upgrades in the Pine Pass include a $40.4 million highway reconstruction and realignment that included four bridge structures between Bennett Creek and Link Creek, and a $2 million improvement to lower the highway at the CN Rail Overhead near the West Pine Rest Area. The lowered highway increases the maximum load heights for commercial traffic to 5.4 metres. The Province is also looking at further increasing the height clearance of a second CN Rail Overhead near the East Pine River between Chetwynd and Dawson Creek to improve access for industrial loads, which will accommodate load heights up to 5.4 meters and is estimated to cost approximately $2 million.
"Highway 97 is a vital link for industry, trade and tourism. These highway improvements are supporting economic growth by making it safer and more efficient to move goods and people between northern BC and the southern interior."Pat Bell, former Prince George-Mackenzie MLA
"The removal of constraints that impede the flow of commercial traffic especially oversized loads which are of the utmost importance to the energy and mining industries will increase business opportunities for manufacturers and equipment suppliers west of the Rockies."Scott Gordon, Project Manager, Energy Services BC
"Having a highway that allows for the free movement of heavy and oversize loads between central BC's manufacturing districts and the Peace River area will be of benefit to both BC's economy and the growth of Chetwynd and the region's industries."Evan Saugstad, former Mayor, Chetwynd
The feasibility study established a strong business case for investing in infrastructure improvements along the Highway 97 corridor between Quesnel and Dawson Creek. The identified improvements to the height restrictions of the highway will lead to new opportunities for metal fabricating, prefabricated buildings, and oil and gas field machinery, mining supplies , and transportation and storage. With the existing constraints, some oversized and over height loads can not be accomodated which has resulted in the inability of local contractors to competitively bid against companies from outside the province on service and supply work on major construction contracts within BC.
The business case indicated that the project would have such a large impact on the region that BC companies would only need to capture an average of less than 1% of GDP (measured by incremental GDP growth) of the market share currently held by Alberta producers in order to justify the project.
The extensive work involved in the highway improvements will lead to the creation of many temporary employment opportunities, and the increase in market penetration resulting from the increased highway access has been estimated to lead directly to at least eighty four permanent full time jobs. It would also lead provincial tax revenues to grow by an estimated $700,000 annually.