B.C. needs to get its highway act together

There’s something strange happening to B.C. highways and few people seem to be talking about it.

In 2011, the Ministry of Transportation announced that “the future is four lanes” for Highway 2 and 97 between Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, and the Alberta border. Since then, roughly 14.5 of the 116-kilometre route, or 12.5%, has been four-laned with no new sections having been announced since the last project’s completion in the fall of 2017.

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For a moment though, I’d like to contrast our highway situation in Northeast B.C. with that of Northwest Alberta. Just over a week ago, Premier Rachel Notley was in Grande Prairie to announce that 20 kilometres of Highway 40 from Grande Prairie towards Grande Cache will be twinned by 2023 at a cost of $90 to $110 million. Further, a full interchange will be constructed at the intersection of Highway 43 and Highway 43X, the 12 kilometre $48 million twinned bypass currently being constructed around Grande Prairie.

Even the bridge in Peace River is set to be twinned in addition to 1.6 kilometres of Highway 2 at a cost of $148 million.

Added up, that’s over $300 million worth of investment in Northwest Alberta’s infrastructure resulting in 33 kilometers of new divided highway.

Further, Alberta does not do any of this so-called four-laning; they build fully divided highways with about 30 metres of grass median between opposing lanes of traffic. In B.C., there are no highways currently being upgraded to a similar standard, not even in the particularly forgiving terrain of our region. Across our province, the same approach is taken; two lanes are added to an existing highway and separated by a measly 2.7 metres.

If head-on collisions continue, a concrete barrier might be added to reduce the severity of crashes, but this often results in a much higher accident frequency. No other jurisdiction in North America uses this approach to upgrading highways, at least none that I could find.

I’m not sure why the government has decided British Columbians are not deserving of modern highways, but people are dying as a result of the slow pace and sub-par design of the upgrades.

Within the span of just over a week, two people have fallen victim on the highway between Dawson Creek and Fort St John. What if one of those people happened to be someone close to you?

It’s time to stop settling and start demanding better highways.

— Lakota Stedel, Charlie Lake

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