Prince George Free Press
With a slew of fatal accidents on Highway 16 this winter and expected increased industrial traffic, the province is changing the highway’s designation.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced Tuesday morning that the highway, from Prince Rupert to the B.C./Alberta border and Highway 97 north from Prince George, will be moved from a Class B designation to Class A, changing how snow removal and maintenance is conducted.
“A Class A highway has more patrols,” Stone said during a press conference at the CN Intermodal facility in Prince George. “Patrols will take place every four hours as opposed to every eight hours. The maximum amount of snow accumulation that is permitted on the highway before it has to be removed is quite a bit less … four centimetres, as opposed to six centimetres. There will be more snow removal, more plowing, there will also be more salt and sand applications. All tolled, it represents a heightened level of winter road maintenance.”
It will also mean renegotiating contracts with the six highways maintenance contractors that are responsible for maintaining the stretches of highways. Stone expects the changes will cost the province between $2 million and $3 million per year.
“Those dollars I have found within our ministries,” he said.
He said the province has looked at the number of accidents and fatalities along Highway 16, in addition to traffic volumes in making the decision to reclassify the highways.
“It is absolutely the right time to reclassify Highway 16 and Highway 97,” he said. “It will immediately improve safety in those corridors.”
The province has put $129 million into Highway 16 improvements for past four years.
The changes are expected to be in effect by mid-to-late February.