Fixing Rose Prairie Road through the Montney coulee could prove to be a billion-dollar project should it ever be rebuilt.
The road is an important connection for farming communities and industry north of Fort St. John, and has been slowly slipping for years, with ongoing repairs to stabilize the hillside and patch up the road.
But a fix is pricey, and the ministry of transportation has committed to the keep the road open and safe in the meantime, according to Scott Maxwell, the ministry's executive director for Northern B.C.
"That one is one that you can't proactively deal with unless you're looking to take 'b' with a billion to deal with it," Maxwell said during a Chamber luncheon on May 30.
"We recognize how much traffic uses that to get north of town. But, as of right now, it's a bit of read and react situation because to do something proactively would be huge, huge dollars."
A commute through the coulee to get to the communities of North Pine, Rose Prairie, Doig River, and others is roughly 10 kilometres shorter than an alternative route through the community of Montney.
Maxwell acknowledged the coulee wasn't the best place to build a road, and that the ministry has hauled rip rap to the area to deal with problems as they arise, Maxwell said.
Though the ministry plans to keep the road open, Maxwell couldn't say whether it would ever be closed to traffic, except for local access, before the condition of the hillside worsens, or completely collapses.
He compared it to a similar situation in Quesnel, where estimates to replace the washed out West Fraser Road were up to $90 million. The government and ministry was left to ask itself whether there was a better option and way to spend $90 million to support those who depended on the road, Maxwell said.
"We recognize there's routes around that cost time and money, so right now it's an open road, we're going to keep it open," Maxwell said.
"If there's things happening on the road, we're going to do our best to keep it open. But if the whole thing falls in, I don't have an answer for you."
The ministry has a yearly budget of around $800 million for capital improvements, Maxwell said.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at email@example.com.