An incident from Hwy 95 from May 3, where a truck rolled over after coming around a corner. Golden Fire Chief Mike Pecora said there was no injuries from this incident, but it’s just one of many that have occurred along the stretch of highway since the detours began last year due to extended closures to Highway 1. (Skilled Truckers Canada Facebook photo)

An incident from Hwy 95 from May 3, where a truck rolled over after coming around a corner. Golden Fire Chief Mike Pecora said there was no injuries from this incident, but it’s just one of many that have occurred along the stretch of highway since the detours began last year due to extended closures to Highway 1. (Skilled Truckers Canada Facebook photo)

Safety concerns persist in Golden due to Trans-Canada detour

Many are worried about the safety implications of the increased traffic on Hwy 95

The extended closure of Highway 1, as part of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project, is causing an increase in traffic along Highway 95.

This influx of vehicles on Highway 95 has sparked safety concerns for drivers leading the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) to address the issue.

“The Kicking Horse Canyon Project is in very technical and challenging terrain and these temporary closures are necessary to ensure worker and traveller safety,” read a statement from MOTI.

The Ministry says that the project will provide significant safety improvements for all travellers. In the meantime, diverted traffic along Highway 95, which winds from Radium to Golden, is continuing to cause concerns over safety.

Golden residents have taken to Facebook to remark about the perceived increase in wildlife fatalities whenever traffic is diverted. A group of volunteers have begun donating their time to man the crosswalks during school hours as traffic has increased.

Golden Fire Chief Mike Pecora has also acknowledged an increase in calls on the stretch of highway extending to the south of town, saying that in his 20 years with the department, he had only been to two calls along Highway 95. In the last year since the closures have started, he says he’s responded to about 15 calls in that direction, a number of which have been fatalities.

“The road between here and Invermere, Radium, is way more dangerous than what they’re trying to repair,” said Pecora on May 4, after responding to a vehicle incident in town along the detour route.

“People are frustrated, they’re trying to pass people, at least when you were in the canyon you couldn’t pass people, you were stuck tight. The people who planned this, they did not prepare for this.”

The ministry says it is regularly monitoring Highway 95 throughout the detour period.

Prior to the Kicking Horse Canyon construction, the ministry conducted a safety review along the Highway 95 corridor to identify any safety-related issues.

Some changes were made in Golden to address the additional traffic volume expected during the Trans-Canada Highway closures. These included a new signalized intersection in town, which the ministry says was to improve traffic flow and turn movements into the main town centre.

There were also upgrades to two pedestrian crosswalks, and the highway was widened and realigned in Golden south of the 10th Ave bridge. A dedicated left-turn lane was created at a high volume intersection.

The ministry also says there was an increase in wildlife signage, which an Edgewater couple found to be inadequate this time last year. Dean and Sophie Timothy took it upon themselves to supplement ministry signage with their own after wildlife fatalities continued to pile up during the first extended closure in spring 2021. The pair raised approximately $2,000 from the community and added 60 homemade signs.

According to the duo, prior to their intervention, there were only 11 signs on the highway going both ways between Radium and Golden, 22 in total.

Dean Timothy, who has commuted along the highway for 30 years, said the number of animal fatalities that occurred last year along that stretch of the highway, made for what he called, a “slaughter zone.”

The ministry says that enhanced enforcement from RCMP and CVSE during the closure will help as well.

“Things are going to be hectic the next little while, so be extra cautious when driving and don’t expect people to give way to you,” said Const./Gend. Kat Robinson of the Golden/Field RCMP.

“Always be a defensive driver and be sure it’s clear before you go.”

Despite these measures, Golden is experiencing an increase in traffic, with traffic getting bottlenecked frequently at the bridge as trucks struggle to make the tight right turn onto the bridge, often having to stop and wait for oncoming traffic to allow them through.

Bottlenecks at the traffic lights on red are also frequent, blocking access to other intersections and side streets.

“When the traffic light hits, people just bottleneck and line up behind each other and everyone gets flustered,” said Pecora.

No other major upgrades have been since the closures began.

There are just over two weeks remaining in this closure period.

According to MOTI, after this most recent closure, more than 70 per cent of the planned extended-closure days will be complete.

The upgrades to Highway 1 involve expanding the highway from two lanes to four with a meridian divider, with approximately 4.8 kilometres of highway being updated, with 13 curves realigned and wider shoulders along the highway to accommodate cyclists.

The closures are a part of the larger Alberta to Kamloops four-lane project, with the Province committing $837-million to upgrade Highway 1 between Kamloops and the Alberta border over the next three years under Budget 2021.

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