Cell service along highways 95 and 97 will be expanded, closing several service gaps along the way, as part of the Connecting British Columbia program.

The highways, while miles apart, are prone to difficult winter driving conditions and sudden road closures, the Ministry of Citizen’s Service says.

“We can’t change the weather, but we can make strategic investments to help expand highway cellular service in B.C. With these latest projects, we are on track to more than triple our target to increase highway cellular coverage,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services.

The Connecting B.C. program will supply Rogers with up to $5.47 million toward the estimated $6.4-million cost of filling in cellular gaps along 68 kilometres of Highway 97 between Chetwynd and the Highway 39 junction.

The route includes Pine Pass, a sparsely populated area prone to avalanche conditions.

Cellular service will also be made available at the West Pine rest area and Powder King Mountain Resort.

“This will benefit northern communities and will provide much-needed safety and cell service to a long stretch of highway. The coverage is essential and will bring peace of mind to our commuters and community members who regularly use the highway,” said Jayde Duranleau, youth councillor with the McLeod Lake Indian Band.

Rogers will also receive $774,000 from the program to upgrade cellular service along Highway 95 between Golden and Spillimacheen.

The Connecting British Columbia program was expanded in September as part of the province’s economic recovery plan.

It also includes a mandate to improve access for people in rural and Indigenous communities.

So far, cell service has been expanded along 429 kilometres of highways throughout the province, including Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

The highways 95 and 97 cellular projects are expected to be completed by October.