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Wednesday, 14 September 2011 16:11

Evidence draws gov’t attention to wind-induced accidents

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By Susan Quinlan
Southern Alberta
Likely all southern Albertans can recall an incident when they’ve been driving in high winds, only to find their arm muscles exhausted and their heart rates well above normal. At those times, many pull over or simply choose not to venture out, but what about people who drive for a living?

“On February 11th and 12th we had six rollovers right here,” said Bob Costa, whose family lives several kilometres north of Highway 3 on the east side of Highway 22 — a highway greatly affected by the region’s powerful westerlies.

Costa said a few weeks prior to the rollovers described above, the wind lifted a flat deck hauling three light cargo trailers from Oregon about eight feet off the pavement and literally threw them into the east ditch.

“When my friend, who happened to be behind and witnessed this, stopped to help the driver he said, ‘don’t they close this road in these conditions?’”

Having lived in his current home for about 30 years, Costa has seen an exponential increase in traffic along Highway 22 since it was paved and widened in the 1980s. With this increase has come an equal number

of wind-induced accidents.

With this past winter’s onslaught of rollovers, Costa decided it was time to look into bringing about a change.

“We’re talking about public safety here; death is imminent. We’ve had the winds clocked here at 178 kilometres per hour. You can’t mess with this;

you can’t ignore it.”

To that end, Costa contacted MLA Evan Berger (Livingstone-Macleod).

“Evan was extremely receptive. He has a trucking background and has been stuck in a rig on Highway 22 during a high wind event. He gave me the better side of an hour and I left that meeting feeling very positive.”

Costa also left Berger with a letter detailing several specific incidents of which he was a witness to, involving semi trucks and high winds, along with photographic evidence of the wrecks and skid marks illustrating the direction of travel, where a semi was forced, by the wind, into the opposing lane.

Costa then moved on to discuss the issue with Pincher Creek Fire Chief Dave Cox.

“Dave understands very well, because it’s his EMS team that responds on Highway 22.”

Costa spoke with the Blairmore RCMP detachment commander who agreed with Cox’s assessment. He suggested Costa get on board with Rick Lemire, maintenance contract inspector for Alberta Transportation.

“That meeting was also very positive. Rick decided he wanted to form a task force to address the issue and bring

in as many agencies as this issue concerns.”

That task force had its first meeting in May attended by representatives from the Blairmore Detachment of the RCMP, Pincher Creek EMS, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement – Transportation, Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation, Volker Stevin Contracting, the Alberta Motor Transport Association, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, Costa, representing the public at large and Lemire, for Alberta Transportation.

By the end of that first meeting, said Costa, the group had determined what type of signage would be required and have since gathered information about cost, estimating that to be between $150,000 and $200,000.

“You don’t want the truckers getting on Highway 22 and then discovering there’s a high wind problem. You want them informed ahead of time, prior to even getting on that stretch of road.”

Costa said it of course doesn’t matter if the truckers are north or southbound in high wind conditions; they’re going to run into trouble and there are school buses as well to be concerned about.

There’s injury, insurance and other damage costs to consider as well.

“There’s also costs to you and I, given that it’s the public purse when an accident involves EMS, the hospital and RCMP. The biggest concern though, is public safety.

“We want to do the best we can with this proposal. We have been talking multiple signs. Our objective is to simply get this done.”

Once the task force’s recommendation is completed, it’ll be submitted to Alberta Transportation for consideration.

Meanwhile, those wanting to lend support to this issue should write to MLA Evan Berger at

Box 69, Fort Macleod, TOL OZO or write to his office at the Legislative Assembly, #607 Legislature Annex, 9718 - 107 Street N.W., Edmonton, AB.

Your comments can also be added to the Livingstone Landowners Group Facebook page.

“Now, as we continue to move forward in a positive direction I’m updating the Livingstone Landowners Group Facebook page when worth while to do so, so people remain interested and hopefully won’t think another issue or effort of time has been lost or wasted.

I do feel cautiously optimistic. We shall see.

“We really hope to have something in place by fall, as that’s when the heavy winds roll in again.”

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