THE TERRIBLE MULTI-VEHICLE CRASH on the Coquihalla last weekend — thank goodness there were no fatalities — has everyone talking again about the dangers of driving that highway in winter conditions.
Everybody has ideas about what can be done to reduce the accident rate (and the death toll) on the Coq.
There’s the usual stuff — make sure you have the proper winter tires, carry chains, drive slowly and carefully, reduce speed limits.
And there are always the intrepid highway maintenance contractors to point the finger at when all else fails.
But let’s face it. The Coquihalla Highway is a summer highway. The best way to deal with it in winter is simply not to drive it.
But buses and transport trucks must take the shortest route, and many regular folks just don’t want to spend an extra couple of hours going the long way.
So, there doesn’t seem to be an answer.
Or maybe there is.
It’s been 10 years since the tolls were removed from the Coquihalla. When then-premier Gordon Campbell removed them in 2008, it was hailed as a great day for B.C.
The Interior regarded the tolls as a tax on people and commerce coming inland from the Interior. But maybe those tolls are the answer to the perennial wreckage and lost lives on the Coq.
At the time they were removed, they had reached $57 million annually. (That’s $67 million in today’s dollars.)
Think what that could do for winter maintenance on the Coquihalla.
We don’t know yet what all the causes were of last Sunday’s pileup, but we do know winter conditions were a factor. The Coquihalla in winter will get you if it can.
Putting the toll booths back in would not only provide for a dramatic increase in winter maintenance and emergency response, but it would force drivers to stop and re-set their brains before tackling the other half of the trip.
If paying $10 per trip made you feel safer on the Coquihalla, wouldn’t you?
Something to think about.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.