Written by Dan Backs
The biggest problem causing a delay in twinning are those who argue that the only problem is the drivers. Admittedly there are idiot speeders and foolish slowpies but there are very real problems that can only be solved by improvements in the short term and by ultimately twinning.
There are portions of the road that remain as the old gravel grade built in the 60′s and have very poor sight lines. These need to be leveled and regraded and widened.
Wildlife is returning big-time after they have been reduced for some years because of the big fires. There were times before the fires when I quit counting deer off to the side or even on 63 after I hit 300. Wildlife fences are due, at least in some portions, especially given that 40% of accidents on 63 have a wildlife component. Twinning will also give someone passing and then having a moose or deer make a move not have to take the ditch.
4000 big super-wide modules are scheduled already to travel up 63 in the next four years. A two lane country highway is simply not appropriate for moving these loads and I do not understand how on God’s Green Earth blaming the drivers is going to change this factor.
Weather makes for bad driving. WInter on 63 can give us some of the worst, but is not necessarily the drivers, it is the conditions. The recent tragedy was in bad weather. A twinned road gives an incredible and obvious increase in safety when roads are icy or the snow is blowing. Chains or snow tires should also be a requirement on 63 from Oct.15th to April 15th, like on designated difficult B.C. highways.
Policing enforcement was increased to one of the highest levels of any route in Canada after 2007 and in my many trips I have certainly seen the RCMP/Sheriff presence. Their recent 600 hour 30 squad car blitz only averaged less than 1 speeding ticket per hour but 552 sounded like a lot, even though many were 10kph overs and the average was 20kph over. The police are doing their job. Increased and heavy enforcement simply has not decreased the number of head-ons and the tragedies continue.
Traffic is often slow and if people can pick their times, 63 is an easy drive. It is the traffic surges that can make for craziness. McMurray’s population is growing quickly but the camps are bursting at the seams and will likely have more than 60,000 at the end of the year. Shift changes throw thousand s on 63 all at once. It is in this traffic that many make the poor choices. Twinning simply makes the surge times much safer.
Of course the long line-ups behind the slow loads create the biggest problems, especially if some of the other danger factors come up. Many are afraid to pass, and especially in weather it can be very dangerous to continue in the line and unfortunately many choose to get out of it quickly and pass multiple vehicles. This creates deadly situations. Twinning obviously solves this. In the short term, building more pull-outs and passing lanes and requiring those at the front of line-ups to pull over at the next pull-out will increase safety by allowing traffic to pass safely.
I would ask those that always use the simplistic argument of just blaming the drivers to quit it. They do everyone who drives 63 a disservice, delay twinning and in so doing contribute to future tragedies.
Twinning is a good investment for Alberta’s economy and for the safety and well-being of all who live and work in the Fort Mac area.
…and twinning will end the tragedies.