© Parks Canada/Mas Matsushita/MRGNP collection #615-0288-D-503
In national parks and national historic sites, road and rail transportation is more than just moving people between destinations. Transportation provides travellers with the opportunity to sightsee and explore the mountain environment. In fact, almost all visitors see and experience these areas from roads and roadside facilities.
Unfortunately, these same roads and the railway have a considerable impact. The transportation corridor and secondary roads, and associated vehicular traffic, affect wildlife movement, create noise, affect air quality, impact cultural resources, alter the natural flow of streams, and introduce noxious weeds and chemicals. At the same time the corridor and secondary roads provide access for visitors and serve as a vital link in a national transportation route with approximately 1.5 million vehicles a year on the Trans-Canada Highway and up to 40 trains a day on the CPR rail line. Highway safety is an ongoing concern. Better lighting in the snowsheds will help address specific problems. As traffic increases, additional passing lanes or possible twinning may be required.
9.1 Avalanche Control
Extreme weather conditions, an annual snowfall of up to 15 m and 130 avalanche paths add to the challenge of maintaining the Trans-Canada Highway through Glacier National Park. This section of road has the highest avalanche rating of any highway in North America. Many avalanches are large enough to pose a danger to road and rail traffic. Several high use visitor facilities are near avalanche paths.
Parks Canada operates the world’s largest mobile avalanche control program. Designed to maintain an acceptable standard of public safety and minimize delays, the program relies mainly on avalanche warnings, temporary closures, and artillery to stabilize avalanche slopes. Employees of the Department of National Defence, stationed in Rogers Pass during the winter, operate 105 mm howitzers for this purpose.
In addition to active artillery control, static defenses such as concrete avalanche sheds protect highway traffic. Two railway tunnels, completed in 1914 and 1988, permit the railway to avoid the most active avalanche areas in Rogers Pass. The tunnels have the additional advantage of mitigating the environmental impact of the railway over the pass.
When roads are closed, motorists wait in areas not exposed to avalanches. As traffic increases, additional passing lanes or possible twinning can be anticipated.
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