Letter author Jackie Morris writes: Picture yourself driving onto this bridge on a slushy

Near miss highlights need for new Malakwa bridge

Writer: I urge your ministry to move forward quickly with the upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway.

Editor,

An open letter to Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastrucuture.

I am writing to express my anger regarding the condition of the Trans-Canada Highway between Revelstoke and Sicamous. I request that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure move ahead quickly with implementing the planned highway upgrades and the replacement of the 60-year-old, narrow bridges on that route.

Last night and today the Trans-Canada Highway was closed between Revelstoke and Sicamous due to a multi-vehicle incident on the Malakwa Bridge, immediately east of the twinned highway at Malakwa. I’m sure you receive reports of these major incidents. But you do not hear about the near-misses, of which there are many. I hope that by describing my near-miss, I can add to your list of reasons to move forward quickly with the highway upgrades.

On Friday November 29, 2013, I left Revelstoke westbound at about 7:30 a.m. The road surface heading west varied from water to slush to snow, depending on elevation. As I approached the Malakwa Bridge, there was a semi-truck travelling behind me at a normal distance. I was travelling at about 85 km/h. I was about four seconds from the bridge when I saw that at the west end of the bridge, an eastbound mini-van was doing 360-degree spins and about to move onto the bridge. I could not stop with the truck behind me and I could not veer off into the ditch to avoid the mini-van because of guard rail and the river bank. So I drove onto the bridge. The van was wildly out of control, travelling east in the westbound lane with the vehicle on an angle as it moved forward. Very fortunately for me, I was able to drive around him in the opposite lane and I missed him by inches – all while on the bridge. The semi-truck behind me also moved into the westbound lane. By the time the truck passed the van, the van was almost under control – although still in the wrong lane on the bridge.

That time, nobody was hurt and no vehicles were damaged.

I speculate that the highway’s design was a major factor in this near-accident. Eastbound traffic merges to one lane after leaving the Malakwa passing lanes (maybe or maybe not slowing down for the slower speed on the one-lane highway) and then immediately rounds a bend to encounter a narrow bridge. When there is oncoming traffic, including a big semi-truck, many people would touch their brakes before crossing the narrow bridge, which was made even narrower with slush from snow ploughs. Then depending on road surface conditions, whether the vehicle had snow tires, how fast he was going, and how hard the brakes were applied, it’s easy to see how a vehicle could lose control.

I speculate that with a highway and bridge designed to modern standards, the van would not have lost control. My near-miss need not have happened.

I have been following your ministry’s plans to upgrade the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border. I attended the public consultation session in Revelstoke on February 26. I will be sending in comments regarding your “Rural highway safety and speed limits” consultative processes. I do have a grasp of the constraints you are under.

I urge your ministry to move forward quickly with the upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway. This highway is not an abstract whose worth can be rated against the worth of other government priorities. Upgrading the Trans-Canada Highway near Revelstoke is worth our lives.

Jackie Morris,

Revelstoke, B.C.

 

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