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Highway study calls for more passing lanes, signage and lighting

Anyone who has driven the Alaska Highway north of Fort St. John in anything less than ideal conditions will tell you it can be a dangerous stretch of road.
highway
The Alaska Highway slices its way through the Northern Rockies north of Pink Mountain.

Anyone who has driven the Alaska Highway north of Fort St. John in anything less than ideal conditions will tell you it can be a dangerous stretch of road.

A new study identifies improvements that'll be made on the road between now and 2039, including more passing lanes, better lighting at pullouts, rest stops and service areas, and increased signage.

The 196-kilometre study area stretches from Charlie Lake to the Buckinghorse River, with highway segments under both federal and provincial jurisdiction.

Surprisingly, the study found that none of the road segments were particularly collision prone. A safety analysis found a total of 196 collisions occurred in the study area between 2009 and 2013. Only six of these were fatal.

A need for more passing opportunities to allow drivers to get around large trucks was at the fore of the report.

"The presence of many heavy vehicles leads to a high frequency of platoons," the report states, referring to large lineups of slow moving, heavy hauling vehicles.  Many of these platoons formed entering and exiting the Wonowon area.

Some passing lanes did not meet the standard recommended length of 400 m for a 100 km/h zone.

Meanwhile, 16 passing lanes were identified for installation in the next decade based on available traffic data, terrain and proximity to other passing lanes and other factors like the length of no-passing zones.

The exact location for each passing lane will be determined at a later date.

Changes in industry demand and variations in expected growth may alter passing lane priorities and locations, the report states.

The province will review signage along the corridor to ensure it meets their guidelines and will aim to improve signage at intersections, rest stops and service areas.

Faded lane markings, particularly in the southern segments near highly populated areas will be a priority.

Limited lighting at roadway intersections and at rest and service areas are also noted as an issue to be fixed in the first 10 years.

 

Future traffic growth

Based on historic counts, census data and Fort St. John's Official Community Plan, estimated yearly growth in the study area is pegged at three per cent. That means that, by 2039, the part of the corridor near Fort St. John is expected to have an annual daily average of 9,500 vehicles, up from 5,450 in 2014, meaning it could be considered for expansion into four lanes, the study says.

For sections between Stoddart Creek Road and Pink Mountain Road there is an anticipated increase of 4,300 to 7,330 vehicles, an increase from the 2014 range of 2,460 to 4,190. The northernmost portion will have about 1,930 vehicles, up from 1,100.

reporter@dcdn.ca