Attorney General David Eby should be focusing on policies that will prevent collisions rather than penalizing those who are injured on BC’s roads with a cap on “minor injuries.“

Highway 1 crash numbers double in two years in Fraser Valley

Published on July 02, 2018 by Glenda Luymes

The number of crashes on Highway 1 between Langley and Chilliwack has doubled in the past two years, according to ICBC statistics obtained by Postmedia.

The report shows the number crashes on Highway 1 between 232 Street in Langley and Annis Road in Chilliwack — a four-lane stretch of highway — rose from 510 in 2015 to 1,100 in 2017.

Injuries and fatalities have risen, too. In 2011, 270 crashes resulted in casualties, while in 2017, 470 crashes led to someone being harmed. A total of 790 people were injured on the highway between Langley and Chilliwack last year. Information on fatalities was not available.

The dramatic increase in crashes and congestion has the mayors of Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack calling on the provincial government to widen the highway quickly.
“Our region is changing,” said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz. “We’ve had an influx of people moving from Metro Vancouver to find affordable housing (and) we’re starting to feel the squeeze. “I hope the province takes action before the highway becomes gridlock all day, every day.”

The mayor said she often drives to Richmond for meetings. Five years ago, she would give herself an hour-and-a-half to get there. Now, she budgets three hours — one way.

“When you’re spending so much time on the freeway, it takes away from the time you can spend at home with your family,” she said.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun called transportation one of the “most significant issues” facing his community. “It’s a mess out there,” he said.

Braun pointed to a Liberal promise to widen the highway to three lanes in phases, beginning with the stretch from 216th to 264th in Langley, and eventually all the way to Whatcom Road in Abbotsford. The NDP has put the plans on hold while it studies the issue.

“Rarely a day goes by that there’s not an accident,” said the mayor. “Something needs to be done. We can’t live like this.”

Eastbound traffic at 264 Street & Hwy. 1 on Friday. This is clogged despite being a widened section of the highway.

Jack Froese, the mayor of Langley Township, said he and his Fraser Valley counterparts have been lobbying the province to get highway widening “back on the table.”

“The Fraser Valley is growing rapidly and we don’t have the transit options that Metro does to get people out of their cars,” he said.

Froese said he understands widening can’t be done “all at once,” but he hopes the provincial government will continue to add lanes in phases to ultimately ease congestion.

In a statement, the Ministry of Transportation said it is committed to “improving this section of the Trans-Canada Highway so people can get to where they need to go without sitting in traffic.”

The statement pointed to project underway to widen the highway from four lanes to six lanes between 202nd Street and 216th Street through Langley — work that began under the previous government.

“In terms of expanding the highway past 216th Street, we are assessing the Highway 1 corridor as a whole through the Fraser Valley to determine the best way to cut down on congestion and increase safety,” said the statement. “The ministry considers collision data as well as traffic volumes (historic, current and predicted) when planning transportation improvements.”

No deadline was given for finishing the government assessment.

In the meantime, congestion has become an frustrating expectation for anyone travelling east of Langley on a regular basis.

“It’s unreal,” said Robert (Mukwa) Guiboche, a Fraser Valley tow truck driver. “It gets backed up at every exit, and it’s stopped whenever someone is broken down.”

Traffic volume coupled with impatient drivers make Guiboche’s job more dangerous than in the past.

“People don’t move over or slow down, they’re cutting around cars to get to the off ramps,” said the owner of Citywide Towing and Parking Control. “It’s sickening when you’re trying to hook up on the side of the road. All of us tow truck drivers want to get home safe to our families, too.”

Russ Jenkins, the deputy fire chief of the Township of Langley, said most of the crashes he goes to are rear-enders, calling it the “slinky effect” when traffic bunches up and slows down rapidly.

Congestion makes it more difficult for first responders to get to crashes, with cars often backed up a kilometre away as firefighters arrive, said Abbotsford fire chief Don Beer. “Compared to two years ago, the volume of traffic is incredible.”

Police advise uninjured drivers involved in a collision to drive their car to a “place of safety out of travel lanes, turn hazard lights on and call for assistance,” said Const. Mike Halskov of RCMP traffic services.

“When considering the volume of traffic moving through this corridor on a daily basis, there is bound to be the occasional collision,” he added.

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun here