Wednesday, 19 October 2011 14:11

Wind warning signage expected by the time the snow flies

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By Susan Quinlan
Southwest Alberta
It’s fall once again and southern Alberta’s mild westerlies are, as usual, anything but mild.
Given public attention drawn to Highway 22 last year, with eight semi wrecks in just a single day due to
wind gusts clocked at about 180 kph, Alberta Transportation is now moving forward on advice from a task force charged with considering options to warn drivers of high-wind conditions.

Rick Lemire, maintenance contract inspector for Alberta Transportation, said a decision as to the best way of informing drivers is now in the design stage.

“We have everything in place and have expedited the project ... Something will be in place by this winter. Whether that means full electronic signage, probably not, but additional signage will be in place. We’re proposing a sign with a windsock.

“We knew we had a problem there.

We thought existing signage could be improved. We’ve had all kinds of calls on this … We knew we had to do something. We’re here to provide safety.

It’s the shortest route for many and it’s scenic, said Lemire, but it also has a lot of traffic, a lot of wildlife and two different weather systems including an alpine system at its north end then heavy wind gusts in the south.

As to the wording on the signs, Lemire said the Technical Standards Branch of Alberta Transportation is currently working on it.

“It will likely be a sign that says when light(s) flashing, use an alternate route,” said Lemire.

By the following year, an even more effective system may be in place.

“We are exploring the idea of using a RWIS (Road Weather Information System) complete with wind monitoring, surface temperature and other capabilities. It’ll then communicate with a modem to activate warning lights on warning signs."

Meanwhile, many wind-warning signs have already been erected throughout the southwest.

“They’re now on Highways 2, 3 and 5 around the Pincher Creek area.”

As to enforcement, that’s beyond what’s expected by Alberta Transportation.

“We post the signs and figure it’s up to the driver.”

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