Called the Coquihalla no more?

'By referring to it as the Yellowhead, it would be rather confusing to people'

Regional politicians are wondering why a couple of billboards along the Coquihalla now identify the stretch of blacktop as the Yellowhead Highway.

Merritt Mayor Susan Roline raised the issue at a meeting of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board last week. She said one sign each between Merritt and Kamloops and Merritt and Hope now name the Coquihalla as the Yellowhead.

The TNRD's Yellowhead Highway Committee was asked to look into the matter. Contacted Tuesday, committee member Herb Graham said he hasn't received any answers from the Ministry of Transportation.

"I'm looking into it right now," he said.

Roline said the signs were altered some time during the late summer without fanfare. Neither she nor the mayors of other communities along the highway were notified of the change.

"It's the process. You always concern yourself when things get changed when none of the municipalities that it affects are made aware," she said.

"I think this is a big source of pride for all three communities, being a part of the Coquihalla Highway chain."

Hope Mayor Susan Johnston didn't know the signs had been changed and Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar learned of it when Roline brought the issue to the TNRD's attention.

Roline said there was a lot of lobbying during the 1960s and 1970s to get the highway, which opened in 1986. If the province wants to change the name, she believes the word Coquihalla should be a part of it.

"Even if they could have incorporated both (Yellowhead and Coquihalla) into it," suggested Roline.

Other signs in Merritt that once identified the Coquihalla now read Highway 5 or Yellowhead, said Graham. To him, it's like the Coquihalla doesn't exist anymore.

"You can't just go and change it," said Graham.

Regional director John Ranta said he doesn't care what the highway is called; it's the fact the signs changed without anyone being consulted that puzzles him.

"They should let people known," he said.

VSA Highway Maintenance vice president Bob Gilowski knows nothing about a re-branding, if that's what's occurred. And his company maintains the Coquihalla and has regular meetings with the province, he said.

In an email, a spokeswoman with the Ministry of Transportation believed signs had been swapped years ago, but said she was investigating the matter further. An answer was not provided by press time.

A name change would surprise Ruth Fane, one of the people behind a successful campaign to stop the sale of the Coquihalla in 2003.

The public at large knows the highway as the Coquihalla, she said. To change it could confuse the public despite the highway carrying the same numerical designation as the Yellowhead.

"I suppose we could hypothesize that might be a reason for changing the name, but that doesn't make much sense to me," she said. "By referring to it as the Yellowhead, it would be rather confusing to people."

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