Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure certainly had a full-court press going during an open house in Clearwater held on Feb. 7, regarding the proposed roundabout on Highway 5.
There was plenty of staff on hand and they all seemed to be well-briefed to answer questions about the project.
They even had the big boss herself, Sherry Eland, the district manager from Kamloops.
One of the more interesting things Eland said, however, wasn’t about the roundabout.
A woman had asked the Eland about installing concrete barriers along Highway 5 next to the North Thompson River south of Clearwater.
A young Clearwater couple was tragically killed last December when their vehicle slid off the highway at a place called Wolf’s Corner and into the river.
About 15 years ago another vehicle went into the river at almost exactly the same spot. In that case, fortunately, the driver (a female RCMP officer who had been hurrying to an accident scene) was able to escape alive.
Several people have written letters to the editor as well as to the Ministry about the situation, asking that barriers be put up along the most dangerous parts.
Partly as a result of last December’s tragedy, they have revised the criteria they use to decide where highway barriers should be placed, Eland told the woman.
Under the old system they only looked at the risk of a vehicle going off the road – how likely was it?
Now they also are measuring consequences. If someone goes off the road at that spot, what would be the consequences?
At Wolf’s Corner, for example, the river is on the inside of the curve. Most people, if they slide off the road at a corner, go off the outside edge. It is pretty unlikely that they would go off the inside.
At Wolf’s Corner, however, if someone does the unlikely and goes off the inside of the curve, the consequences are serious. They almost certainly will end up in the river and, if it is winter or high water, the chances of survival are slim.
The Ministry is going to re-evaluate all of Highway 5 from Heffley Creek to Clearwater under the new criteria, Eland said.
Concrete barriers will be put up in locations where the consequences of going off the road are serious, even if the probabilities of that happening are low.
Erection of the new barriers will begin as soon as money can be budgeted for it, she said.
We applaud the Ministry for taking this common sense approach to safety. We live in a mountainous province, which means our roads can be more hazardous than elsewhere.
We should take all steps that we can reasonably take to reduce those hazards.