At the height of winter, highway closures on Highway 1 can prove to be a nuisance for many.
Working behind the scenes of every road closure is Crossroads Hwy Services, which handles traffic control on the highways within a one-hour radius of Golden. They work to keep traffic flowing as best as possible.
“We do our best to manage the traffic out there, on both sides of the roads,” said Marilyn Thorn, owner and operator of Crossroads.
When Crossroads gets the call that there was a highway closure, Thorn initially dispatches four of her people to direct traffic. Depending on how severe the closure is, she then sends additional traffic controllers, which can sometimes include eight people. Crossroads is also dispatched to Donald to catch the local traffic between there.
“It’s all about teamwork, we can’t handle these closures unless we have teamwork,” said Thorn. “We all get there to manage the traffic as fast as we can to get control of the parking right away, because it can be lost very easily.”
When the highway closes, Crossroads will divert semi-trucks to park along Highway 1 Frontage Road as they wait for it to reopen. Problems begin to arise when there are too many trucks, which brings them into town, where Crossroads has no jurisdiction.
According to Thorn, they’re already working out a plan with the Town of Golden on how to manage the influx of parked trucks and vehicles on the side roads in case this happens. Normally, Tuesday is the busiest day for truck traffic, a day that has been nicknamed ‘Trucker Tuesday’ by Crossroads.
“We’re happy to say that the fire department is coming to help manage traffic when the roads are full and to help manage traffic on the street,” said Thorn. “We’re working on a plan for how to make sure that we’re not going to have that much semi traffic in Golden anymore.”
One of the most difficult parts of traffic control is the variability in highway re-opening times. When DriveBC announces the road will re-open at 2 p.m., vehicles will start to line up at quarter to in preparation. The trouble comes when the re-opening is delayed and vehicles are stuck waiting in line.
Sometimes their job is complicated by trucks getting stuck on Golden Hill or Five Mile Hill and are unable to move.
Thorn said this year in particular has been busy, in comparison to the last few years.
“There’s been a phenomenal amount of road closures, it’s been a different kind of winter this year,” said Thorn. “Last year in December we had two road closures, this year we’ve had 10.”
Road closures are often caused by avalanche risks and accidents. Thorn said to avoid accidents, it’s imperative that drivers slow down and are wary of the winter driving conditions. Having proper snow tires also helps.
Thorn said she also believes that the increase in traffic along the highway in the last few years have contributed to the higher number of accidents and subsequent closures.