Since writing a letter to the editor to the Outlook in early July 2022 on the topic of Trans-Canada Highway fatalities in Yoho National Park, I see another five fatalities in two separate collisions have occurred in the past four weeks on this two-lane section of highway.
It gives me no solace in saying “I told you so” and my condolences go out to the families of the deceased but statistics hardly ever lie. This 40-kilometre stretch of two-lane highway built 60 years ago and now sandwiched between stretches of a four-lane highway is a recipe for disaster as motorists fail to modify their driving expectations and habits.
With increasing traffic volumes, especially with respect to the percentage of commercial truck traffic and the demand for just-in-time delivery of goods, the increasing frequency of head-on collisions and the likely resulting fatalities is inevitable.
It is interesting to read in the recently released 2022 Yoho National Park management plan the safety of the travelling public and visitors using the Trans-Canada Highway barely receives comment, though Parks Canada is fully accountable and responsible for it on behalf of the federal government. I also note in the vision for the park’s future, the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway or the safe, efficient and effective movement of motorists through or in the park does not even garner a mention.
However, a number of management plan strategies, objectives, and achievements from improved wildlife and aquatic connectivity, reduced wildlife-vehicle collision mortality, improved visitor facilities and climate resiliency of infrastructure are all contingent and dependent on the approval and funding of the Trans-Canada Highway twinning. Let’s hope these are achieved well prior to the five- to 10-year plan’s horizon.I have written to Transport Canada, who simply passed the issue onto Environment and Climate Change/Parks Canada. Bob Morrison, the MP for Kootenay-Columbia was kind enough to speak with me, but his influence on government decisions is limited. I have yet to hear from the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Parks Canada.
”Magical thinking”, or Parks Canada seeking funds through the federal bureaucracy, or the writing of one individual or local newspaper editorials alone will likely not make twinning funding happen without added concerted pressure and effort on the part of others. Previous funding for Trans-Canada Highway twinning in Banff National Park did not occur without the support of citizens, the province, environmental groups, businesses and chambers of commerce writing and lobbying the government.
While it is recognized the cost of twinning this highway is considerable, the reality is it will not all occur all at once and can be done incrementally in the same way one would eat an elephant, one bite at a time. The key is to just start.So, if you must travel or commute on the Trans-Canada Highway through Yoho National Park until it is twinned – be cautious, be very cautious so you or your loved ones do not become the next traffic fatality or serious injury statistic.