A probe into the location and safety aspects of a Highway 16 brake inspection site in Beaverly continues, with no solution around the corner.
The lack of dedicated lanes for truck traffic entering and exiting the site, 24 kilometres west of Prince George, is creating hazards for passing motorists on the two-lane highway and commercial transport operators are feeling the wrath of frustrated drivers concerned the brake check site is creating dangerous driving conditions.
"It's got a lot of the truck drivers pretty worried about it," said Ray Dondale, regional operations manager for Excel Transport, citing the location as just one of the issues. "The safety aspect of it right now is there are no deceleration or acceleration lanes and the condition of the brake check is it's usually rough, so our guys almost have to come to a complete stop on the highway before they can pull off into there. It's a mandatory stop, and the problem we're having is it's a 100 kilometre [per hour] highway. So we're holding up traffic and people are unsafely passing us coming out of there. There's going to be a bad [accident], there's no doubt."
While the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has promised a 140-metre deceleration lane and a 400-metre acceleration lane will be built and the inspection site will be paved, Dondale believes that won't entirely fix the problem.
"With the length of lanes they're talking, we're still going to be merging into 100 kilometre-an-hour traffic at 50 or 60 kilometres an hour and it's not going to be fast enough for anybody out in that position," said Dondale. "Because of its location, it's not very safe."
As an example of a safer model, he pointed to the Williams Lake brake check north of that city, which is in a 70-kilometre per hour zone where entry to and from the inspection site is controlled by a traffic light.
The Beaverly brake check was installed to address safety concerns and help prevent trucks coming down Peden Hill with inadequate brakes. In December 2010, a semi-trailer truck lost its brakes and narrowly averted disaster as it came down Peden Hill through the Vance Road intersection, coming to rest on the opposite side of the highway in a restaurant parking lot.
All trucks that weigh 5,500 kilograms or more are required to stop at the inspection site. Dondale said there are better locations, but some of the alternatives might require the province to purchase land. A spot near the Bon Voyage Motor Inn has been suggested, as well one near the Jensen subdivision, and a site west of the Mud River bridge.
"Mud River has a hill with a bridge at the bottom of it, and there have been problems on that hill before, and yet we're not doing a brake check on that hill, and we're still quite a ways from Peden Hill to do a brake check," said Dondale. "If their concern is Peden Hill, we should be closer to Peden Hill in a lower-speed area."
Central Interior Logging Association executive director Maryanne Arcand was among a crowd of about 90 drivers and local residents who attended a public meeting last week at Beaverly Fire and Rescue Hall and was surprised to learn how many people want changes made to the inspection site.
"Prior to the meeting, I had not had one single complaint from any of our members," said Arcand, who represents 120 logging transport companies. "We haul a lot of logs past there on a daily basis. If the government figures we need a brake check, where it goes is really the issue for the Beaverly folks. If you start getting that far out of town, things can still happen to people's brakes in the interim. If the idea is to protect Peden Hill, that's a long way out. People say it should go [west of] the Mud River hill, and that's another 10 kilometres to the east."
While the inspection site opened in December, Arcand said the widened road surface on that part of the highway has long been a spot where truckers stop.
She said the jury is still out whether proper exit and entry lanes will fix the problem, and that won't be known until it is paved. But if the site does get resurfaced and is still found to be causing problems, she said it would be difficult for the province to abandon it after spending money on it.