Representatives from Stump Lake Ranch and the Upper Nicola Band will meet with the provincial government next week, presenting a detailed engineering report on Highway 5A they say provides weight to their argument the route should be closed to commercial trucks.
In an announcement Thursday, Bob Price, spokesperson for Stump Lake Ranch, said the report, completed by an engineering firm, is “the most detailed report ever done on Highway 5A.”
The report was commissioned by the ranch to investigate safety concerns raised by residents who live and commute along the highway, which stretches between Kamloops and Merritt and provides an alternate route to the Coquihalla.
“As outlined throughout the report, unnecessary non-local commercial truck traffic on a rural highway not designed to accommodate large trucks has certainly resulted in extremely dangerous travel conditions for area residents, together with unacceptable living conditions as well,” Price said.
According to Seero Engineering Consulting Ltd., which wrote the report, the purpose was to assess the safety and operational performance of Highway 5A, and “does not provide endorsement or recommendations for any specific policy.”
The report found about 14 to 24 per cent of the vehicles along Highway 5A are commercial trucks.
According to the report, by using Highway 5A, trucks can bypass Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement stations set up along the Coquihalla highway, possibly impacting enforcement.
“Trucks with overload or any non-compliance issue may also use Highway 5A to bypass the stations at Kamloops in both northbound and southbound travel directions,” the report said.
Haytham Sadeq, one of the report authors and a senior transportation planning and road safety engineer, said some geometric features of the highway, such as road shoulder width and the tightness of winding road curves don’t meet Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) guidelines.
“The speed and the horizontal curve is one of the most important factors in the safety of a highway,” Sadeq said.
“Some of these geometric horizontal curves are quite tight and does not meet the TAC guidelines, and this is one of the major factors of increasing or decreasing collisions along a segment. If the horizontal radius is wide, it reduces collisions. If it is a tight and small radius with a high speed, this increases collisions.”
Sadeq said while on site visits to Highway 5A, he noticed commercial trucks using more road space on the highway because shoulder space is not adequate — and, in some places, is non-existent.
“They are making their own shoulders. They're using the lanes — when they don't see other vehicles — as shoulders, because they need shoulders to drive through highways, and this is why the guidelines require a shoulder,” he said.
“When you don’t have enough shoulder, you see some of this sway, when trucks are swaying a bit into the opposing lane, which is quite dangerous if other vehicles are coming.”
Sadeq said he noticed a number of signs along the highway warning about tight corners, but he said he is concerned that there may be too much signage.
“Too much repetition of these warning signs sometimes reduces the compliance or the significance of these signs," he said.
"These signs are made to be placed on unique locations, not as repetitive as I have seen.”
The report found fully loaded trucks drive through some of these winding curves at slow speeds, between 20 and 30 kilometres per hour, which causes significant delays for other traffic.
However, in other places along the highway, the report said trucks were observed driving faster than the rest of traffic, resulting in a higher risk of collision.
In terms of crash data, Sadeq said he couldn’t quickly obtain data from ICBC that identified the types of vehicles involved in collisions, but when taking all traffic into account and correcting for volume, Highway 5A has a higher rate of total collisions when compared to the Coquihalla.
Harvey McLeod, chief of the Lower Nicola Band, said the band has been engaged in conversations about highway safety for two decades.
“It’s concerning that we have citizens that live along Highway 5A and each and every day, we have a risk of being hurt or injured,” McLeod said.
“It hurts me to see that our school buses travel up and down that road every day, but there's never any consideration for their safety and wellness.”
McLeod said the report has been sent to Rob Fleming, Minister for Transportation and Infrastructure, and he has agreed to meet on Tuesday. Murray Rankin, Minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, has also been briefed on the issue.
“We need to work together to find a solution to the problem, and yes we'll raise the issue again with the minister and see if we can come to any resolve on making this highway safer for everybody,” McLeod said.