A call for concrete barriers

Mayor, RCMP, petition want dividers along Lougheed Highway

Mission resident Mike Gildersleeve says Lougheed Highway getting busy.

Mission resident Mike Gildersleeve says Lougheed Highway getting busy.

A campaign to install concrete dividers on Lougheed Highway, following a fatal accident a week ago, is gaining momentum.

Cory Wik died following a three-vehicle crash in the 25500-block of Lougheed Hwy.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read wants concrete dividers to be extended from 240th to 272nd streets.

“Given that 85 per cent of our population relies on vehicles, and given that our population is growing exponentially, we need our partners in the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to come to the table with some money to improve the east-west corridor,” Read said on Facebook.

Ridge Meadows RCMP have added their voice, calling for concrete barriers along the centre line of the highway.

They will send a memo to the transportation ministry, asking that barriers be installed and that lane markings be repainted and cat-eye reflectors be installed on lane markings.

A copy will go to the B.C. Coroner’s Service.

Whether the ministry agrees with the request remains to be seen.

However, in 2011, barriers along Lougheed were installed from 105th Avenue to 240th Street to improve safety, partly by preventing illegal left turns.

Mounties say their eyes are always on Lougheed’s intersections and the open stretches from one end of Maple Ridge to the other.

People can hit 120 km/h (in a 80 km/h zone) on Lougheed from 240th to 272nd streets.

“This is particularly dangerous in rush hour, but we have also seen some terrible crashes in light traffic,” said Sgt. Bruce McCowan, with the Ridge Meadows traffic services unit.

In the last few months, police have seized more than 33 vehicles for speeding more than 40 km/h over the limit. Intersections are the dangerous spots, but there’s also been bad accidents from speeding on open stretches. “Lougheed Highway is the kind of road that can lull drivers into a false sense of security, in their ability to drive too fast.”

He added that if motorists are driving 120 km/h, that’s 33 per cent faster than the speed limit, which cuts reaction time.

People online are also calling for the barriers.

Last week’s accident, which took place just before 9 a.m., in the west-bound lanes in an open section of the highway, involving a SUV, car and pickup truck, has also led to an online campaign for the concrete barriers.

“Lives are being tragically lost and injured due to the amount of traffic heading in both directions without barriers,” says the petition on change.org.

“The barriers need to go in immediately; this loss of life is insane. It compares to the “death mile” we had before the cement barriers were installed in Pitt Meadows along the same Lougheed Highway years ago (after many deaths had occurred).

Mission resident Mike Gildersleeve, who works in Maple Ridge, feels the same way.

“It seems so innocuous because it’s such a big highway,” said Gildersleeve, a former Green party candidate. “People are generally going 100 km/h-plus.”

If not barricades, at least there should be better lane markings and maybe reflectors on lanes to better mark the road during rainy, dark nights.

“What you see fairly regularly is people just blow by you in very rainy conditions.”

Gildersleeve said one particularly bad spot is just west of 287th Street, where the road narrows from four lanes to two and where the road shoulder is more narrow than usual.

“If you make a wrong decision, you’re going over the bank.”

Another risky place is 272nd Street, where the road also goes from four lanes to two lanes.

“It’s another battle there.”

Add in higher traffic volumes and people texting and talking on their cellphones makes it even more dangerous.

According to ICBC stats, more than 2,700 accidents, both injury and property damage only accidents, took place along Lougheed in Maple Ridge between 2009 and 2013.

The Kanaka Way-Haney Bypass intersection was by far the worst, with 396 accidents of all types, both injury, fatal and property damage, occurring there.

The next most dangerous intersection was the awkward corner where Dewdney Trunk Road meets Lougheed in west Maple Ridge.

That location accounted for 371 collisions during that time period.

Lougheed and 203rd Street was the third-most dangerous, with 343 collisions.

The intersection of Lougheed and 207th Street had 232 crashes, while the downhill corner of Lougheed and 240th St. was the fifth-most dangerous, with 213 crashes.

Only 67 collisions took place at the intersection of 105th Avenue and Lougheed, the site of another fatality involving a motorcyclist on Jan. 29.

Concrete barriers were installed in the centre median of Lougheed Highway from Kanaka Way to 240th St. as recently as 2011. One goal of that was to reduce the number of people making illegal left-turns across the road.

Read said on Vancouver TV that she also wants the Haney Bypass widened to four lanes while the major intersection of 222nd Street and Lougheed also needs improvement.