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Your road is their office

At seven o'clock in the morning, when Bel Contracting foreman Bill Kuhn was on his way to work, he experienced a situation that has happened too many times along the highway this year.

At seven o'clock in the morning, when Bel Contracting foreman Bill Kuhn was on his way to work, he experienced a situation that has happened too many times along the highway this year.

A speeding black Dodge truck began to tailgate his construction crew vehicle, then proceeded to pass three other vehicles across the double-solid yellow line. He was finally stopped at a road closure further along the highway, and was asked what the problem was.

"The highway's not supposed to be closed," came the response from the bug-eyed man waving his arms. "I'm late for work."

The response was all too typical, and one that road crews have heard time and time again.

"That's what we deal with every day," said Kuhn. "The majority of people are fine, it's the occasional one that causes all the problems, ignores the speed limit and drives irrationally."

Since March 23, when the Culliton Creek improvement project restarted as part of the massive seven-year overhaul of the Sea to Sky Highway, safety workers, flaggers and construction crews have experienced more than their fair share of irresponsible drivers. Speeding is the number one cause for concern among those who work on the highway.

"It's a pretty scary place to be when so many speeding cars are involved," said traffic control supervisor Carrie Lutz. "It's mostly locals who know we're here too, but at least the logging trucks have finally slowed down. I can't believe what I'm seeing out here sometimes - people passing dangerously, people giving us the finger, getting practically run off the road, and way too much speeding.

"Our lives have been threatened by people saying 'Get out of my way or I'll run you over', that kind of stuff."

On a daily basis, flaggers and road crews experience the joys of life on the highway. Along with speeders, verbal abuse from angry motorists is at the top of the list. The abundance of foul-mouthed swear words that flies from the open windows of passing cars is something that flaggers can live without.

"The things that come out of these people's mouths is incredible," said Lutz. "I haven't heard that kind of language even on a construction site. It gets pretty bad and it makes coming out here not very fun."

Most of the problems come as a result of the slow-rolling closures (not the one-hour or four-hour stops), which are necessary to move machinery to different locations along the highway. With three huge loaders, five larger-than-life Tonka-like Volvo rock trucks, six rock box trucks, six truck and transfer vehicles, six heavy-duty excavators, nine rock drills, and many more service and safety vehicles, the safety of motorists along the highway is of paramount importance.

"We're out here for the public's safety, and people need to realize that," said Lutz. "A lot of machinery must get moved around on a continual basis, and these slow-rolling closures enable us to do that. We're just doing our job, we're not out here to cause anybody grief. If people would just be more patient with us, we'll do our best to help."

Constant radio communication to keep the traffic moving smoothly and safely is the main concern for the 50-60 employees of both Bel Contracting and Pacific Blasting.

"This whole job is run on radios," said Lutz. "We need to keep each other aware of what's going on at all times - we've got a seven-kilometre stretch of highway where people are working non-stop. Communication is number one."

Although the road and safety crews do experience some negative comments and nasty driving from certain motorists, they also experience a good number of pleasant situations. Like friendly people honking their horns and giving the thumbs up, to kind strangers who deliver coffee, hot chocolate and fresh doughnuts in the mornings.

"Some of the people we meet are awesome," said Lutz. "It's always nice to see a smiling face and a friendly wave."

Then there are the drivers who try to bribe their way through the road closures - using money, beer, or the promise of a date to try and get them through to the other side.

"We had one guy try to tell us his wife was pregnant and they needed to get to the hospital - but she wasn't even in the car. It turns out he was late for his tee time," said Lutz.

"We're not going to let someone through just to get them out of trouble."

However, Lutz and other flaggers have had numerous experiences helping motorists who have been in trouble. Getting water for people's radiators, taking gas to cars that have run out, calling tow trucks and giving rides to people back into town.

The highway improvement crews also have to work under the many mountain elements that make the job both challenging and rewarding all in the same day. Foul weather, cold, wind, rain, dust and noise are part of the job - but their office surrounded by the incredible scenery of the Tantalus Range and the fresh mountain air.

"It's pretty beautiful and not so hard to take," said Lutz. "We've also got a great crew this year, which makes it really fun to come to work."

The Culliton Creek improvement project will be taking place all summer long, with regular closures posted on the internet, in the newspaper and on the radio. Road crews hope that motorists will respect the job that they're doing, and obey all of the signs and employees working along Hwy. 99.

"We're gonna be here for six years, so let's all cooperate and things will be better for everyone," said Lutz.

Current closures/ delays on Hwy. 99 at Culliton Creek:

Closures/delays effective Monday through noon Fridays to June 30:


2 a.m. to 6 a.m. (1 a.m. to 6 a.m. on Mondays in June)

9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Noon to 1 p.m.

3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

8 p.m. to midnight


15 minutes in non-closure periods, except 6 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.

5 minutes at all other times

More info

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