Highway safety improvements considered

More large transport trucks have been using Northwest highways since the demise of the railway several years ago. Last year, Meadow Lake Fire and Rescue responded to six incidents involving large trucks. Here, two large trucks pass each other on Highway 55 east of Meadow Lake.

More large transport trucks have been using Northwest highways since the demise of the railway several years ago. Last year, Meadow Lake Fire and Rescue responded to six incidents involving large trucks. Here, two large trucks pass each other on Highway 55 east of Meadow Lake.

by Derek Cornet

After a transport truck hauling pulp from Meadow Lake Mechanical Pulp Inc. crashed into a tire shop and storage building in Glaslyn recently, the provincial Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure are mulling possible road improvements.

Last week, the ministry’s district operations manager Conrad Read was in that community looking for potential changes to the highway under the province’s safety improvement program. The program – which is funded $1.2 million annually – covers the cost of enhancements for such things as flashing red lights, pedestrian lanes, rumble strips and advanced warning signs among others.

“Every year we try to put together a list of projects in the district,” he said. “There are currently more than 40 projects with warrant points issued to them.”

When deciding which projects should receive priority for enhancements, Read said the province examines the amount of traffic used on the road and how many collisions have occurred. Regardless of the situation, Read said all requests made to the program are graded equally, which means changes to the highway through Glaslyn may not be forthcoming.

Read also said a viable solution to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future would be the introduction of a transition zone. Currently, the speed limit entering and exiting Glaslyn drops from 100 kilometres per hour to 50. He suggested dropping the rate of speed to 80 first, then to 50 kilometres per hour could make an impact.

“If anything is done though, it will likely take more than six months until any action is taken,” he said.
Since the railway stopped hauling product out of Meadow Lake about five years ago, Read said the number of large trucks using the highway has increased. Currently, 175 trucks utilize Highway 4 every day compared to 85 trucks in past years. The ministry has permanent pads at strategic locations across the province including one on the Matchee-Neeb road.

In Meadow Lake fire chief Neil Marsh’s 2013 annual report to city council, he reported the department responded to more than 30 motor vehicle collisions including six incidents involving large trucks.

According to information provided by Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), between 2010 and 2012, there were 332 motor collisions on provincial highways surrounding Meadow Lake. Highway 4 leading to Glaslyn proved to be the most collision-prone, with 118 incidents in those three years resulting in 13 injuries.

Glaslyn mayor Ken Morrison – who has held the position for more than 20 years – said speeding traffic and large trucks have become an increasing issue since the train stopped travelling through the Northwest.

“We’ve been working with the RCMP trying to slow people down,” he said. “They hold a two or three-day blitz, but a week later it’s the same as before.”

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