A fatal accident last month on a stretch of Highway 37 South taking in the Kitimat River Hill has prompted an examination of the location.
Speaking last week, transportation ministry district manager Darrell Gunn said ministry experts are taking a close look at the history of accidents along that section, which descends toward the Kitimat River Bridge from the north, as well as how the highway itself is aligned and constructed.
“This means a fresh look at the location. And that will help determine what the next steps might be,” said Gunn.
He said the body of information to be studied will include the results of the police investigation into the accident on January 13, which took one person’s life.
According to the RCMP, a southbound Chevrolet crossed the centre line into the path of oncoming traffic and was struck on the passenger side by a northbound Toyota.
The transportation ministry probe comes after another accident took place at the same location on Feb. 17.
Kitimat RCMP report a northbound Dodge pickup rolled into the ditch on the same stretch of road as the accident January 13.
Both occupants of the vehicle were transported to Kitimat General Hospital with minor injuries.
RCMP said icy road conditions appeared to have been a factor in the roll over.
The examination of the section and pouring over the history of accidents is not an acknowledgement the Kitimat River Hill is a problem, Gunn added.
“What we’re doing is going back to see if there’s something that needs to be done,” he said.
Gunn, along with transportation ministry northern district regional manager Scott Maxwell from Prince George and Kevin Richter, a ministry assistant deputy minister from Victoria, met Feb. 9 with former Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan who called for action following the January 13 accident.
In addition to being the Kitimat mayor, Monaghan also served as chair of the Kitimat-Stikine regional district, and in that role was prominent in lobbying the provincial government to increase the maintenance classification from ‘B’ to ‘A’ for Highway 37 South between Terrace and Kitimat.
Following the January 13 accident, Monaghan wrote transportation minister Todd Stone to ask that more winter road maintenance be done by the contractor hired by the ministry.
But she’s now convinced actual physical work needs to be on the Kitimat River Hill.
“That piece needs to be realigned,” said Monaghan following the meeting with the three transportation ministry officials.
“That section has seen 10 deaths,” she said of over the 40 years she’s lived in the area.
Monaghan’s going to keep in touch with the ministry, saying her expectation is that the ministry review that’s now underway will lead to an engineering study and then to a realignment or other project to improve driving safety.
Gunn said the ministry trio also met with Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth who expressed his concerns about the stretch of highway.
Gunn said the meetings with Monaghan and Germuth fit in with a trip to the area already planned by Maxwell and Richter. And that was to present the local transportation ministry district with an award for the top ranking in the province for customer satisfaction.
(With files from Devyn Ens, The Northern Sentinel, Kitimat, B.C.)