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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Wind incidents on Highway 22 a continuing concern

An all too common sight on Highway 22
C. Davis file photo
At their February 24, 2014 meeting Council for the MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 discussed a letter received from citizen Robert Costa outlining his concerns about high wind incidents on Highway 22. Costa's letter to council is reprinted below in full.


Robert Costa

To MD #9 councillors and administration.


In my recent conversations with Terry Yagos regarding high wind incidents on Hwy 22, I was urged to provide council with some background history. Perhaps this would be useful come March when councillors are in Edmonton.

As a response to seeing years of high wind events involving semi trailers on Hwy 22, I began to lobby the Alberta Government for imposed restrictions on commercial traffic during high wind events. On Friday, March 4th, 2011 I had a very productive meeting with (then) MLA Evan Berger.

I presented him with a letter explaining the problems, a number of photographs that I have taken of upset rigs along the road to substantiate my claims, and provided him with a very plausible solution using available technology. I had done a bit of research to learn that systems had been developed and were actively in place both in the USA and in the Maritime Provinces.

Within Canada, I found that wind was a serious problem for travelers using the Confederation Bridge linking PEl to New Brunswick. Research had been done by the laboratories at the University of Western Ontario and subsequently traffic control was put in place with the use of modem technology. Here is a link of interest:

 www.confederationbridge.comltravel/restrictions.html

I was asking for wind monitoring at key points along Hwy 22 which could wirelessly activate digital signage on Hwy #3 and somewhere else to the north, with a warning of high winds, danger, and restriction to commercial traffic because of such conditions.

After a 45 minute conversation Mr. Berger was not only very receptive, but was extremely enthusiastic. As someone with a trucking background and experience with high winds on Hwy 22, he heard me loud and clear and said he couldn't wait to take the photos into caucus on the following Monday. He also asked me to help him by contacting neighbors and others for letters of support as well as ideas for the allowance of necessary local truck traffic to meet the needs of the community, (ie. cattle liners, grain trucks, etc.).

Shortly after this meeting I was invited to sit in on a round table discussion with Alberta Transportation, Volker Stevin, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, RCMP, and Emergency Services. By the end of that meeting I felt that I was heard, understood, and we all agreed that this was absolutely necessary.

Between that time and now there have been many more rollovers and in one case, a truck falling on top of a passenger vehicle. It simply should not require people getting killed to warrant the necessary precautions. Bear in mind that this is also a school bus route. Need I say more with respect to that?

Anyone on that road in those conditions is vulnerable to an extreme safety hazard whether it be the public, the truck driver, and in large part, members of Emergency Services working the scene.

Currently, we have in place signage that is not activated because of technical problems from what I understand. Having said that however, it really seems all too clear that for this to be nearly four years since I began to lobby for change, that the government is clearly dragging its feet on completion, not to mention the need to figure out a way to restrict commercial vehicles during times that merit it. I point this out again because when the RCMP asked for legislation to close the highway during these events, Edmonton apparently said no.

Now I ask you, why would the Province, the Minister of Transportation, deny the implementation of a tool that is a sensible act of prevention to the potential disaster of a semi trailer blowing over onto the local school bus? Isn't this a "no-brainer"? I have heard the word "liability" tossed around in my discussions with various individuals. In my opinion, the only liability that matters is the one involving human lives.

I realize that government has many serious issues to contend with and these are especially tough times with the latest dictate to our economy in Alberta. But having said that, I'm not asking to set aside an environmentally sensitive area, nor am I wanting to secure funding for a building restoration. I'm asking for our government to acknowledge our existence in the south and assume its responsibility for the basic welfare of its people's safety.

I will be meeting with Banff/Canmore MLA Ron Casey, our "Buddy" MLA for this constituency, on Feb. 19th to discuss this further. I would appreciate council taking this to the Minister in March.

Thank you for listening. Robert Costa

 Director of Operations Leo Reedyk told council that the Minister of Transportation wants signage related to emergent wind events to be working by March 1.  Reedyk added that beacons have been installed in the westbound lane of Highway 3 near Lundbreck, and the other part of the Highway 22 project was "very close".

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