A local stretch of highway was left out of a provincial government decision to reduce the speed on 570 kilometres of highway throughout the province.
Canal Flats has actively sought to have the speed reduced along Hwy 93/95 near the village. Mayor Karl Sterzer says his concern is the area of highway from the trestle bridge on the north side of Canal Flats to the south end crossing over the river.
“There’s all kinds of dynamics taking place there,” Mr. Sterzer says, describing the various points of concern along that stretch: areas with no passing lane, multiple signs lobbying for drivers’ attentions, a railway spur, wild animal corridors, and several busy side streets, especially those that will soon be accommodating gypsum mine trucks from the new mine up past Canal Flats. Coming from the south end towards Canal Flats is also hazardous, Mr. Sterzer explains, as vehicles approach the village down a long hill where the speed limit is 100 km/hr, then an immediate deceleration to 50 km/hr upon entering the village.
The biggest concern for Mr. Sterzer, who lives by the highway, is the ungulate corridor.
“I constantly hear animals being hit,” he describes. “There was a period of time where we literally had wolves feeding off the side of the highway.”
Mr. Sterzer, alongside another councillor and CAO Adrian Bergles, took Ministry of Transportation officials along that stretch of highway in February of this year to point out their concerns and ask for a speed reduction zone. However, ministry officials told the village that ICBC statistics did not back up a need for a speed reduction. The problem, suggests Mr. Sterzer, is that ICBC does not hear about all the crashes or near-misses there. At one point he asked several people who live by the highway to send him a text of video if they saw something ‘crazy’, like RVs taking wide turns, high traffic volumes backed up or other traffic concerns to collect evidence of the need for a reduced speed. Mr. Sterzer had to ask the people to stop sending him texts about it because he was getting so many examples.
“We’re asking for something as simple as a 10 km/hour reduction,” said Mr. Sterzer. “In a perfect world, we’d like 20. But at least 10.”
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure reviewed three years’ worth of data on 33 segments and 1,300 kilometres of highway to make their recommendations, according to the press release (see below). As a result, 15 sections of highway, totalling 570 kilometres, will have speed limits rolled back by 10 km/hr. Along with the two corridors that were lowered in 2016, this represents 660 kilometres of B.C. highways where speed limits are being rolled back. The remaining routes did not show higher accident rates and the speed limits will remain the same, including the Coquihalla where variable speed limits are in operation.
“Speeding has been one of the top three factors contributing to car crashes, especially in rural and remote areas of B.C.” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “Research has shown that reducing speed lowers the number of crashes and severity of injuries, so I am very supportive of the speed limit reductions announced today. I look forward to the safety measures that will be implemented on B.C. roads, and will continue to work with the Road Safety Strategy Steering Committee to advocate for initiatives that will help keep all road users in B.C. healthy and safe.”
While the government’s announcement did not include Canal Flats, Mr. Sterzer says they will continue to push the issue.
“We’ll keep bringing it up at any opportunity we have, whether at UBCM, or followup letter writing,” the new mayor says. “To me there’s only one answer and that answer it to reduce the speed there.”