Editorial: Open roads

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Serious summer overloads came early to Salt Spring last week when travellers stranded by a Malahat closure detoured through the island via two of our ferry terminals.

A collision involving a fuel truck and courier van saw the Trans-Canada highway closed near Goldstream Park for more than 13 hours on Thursday.

For Salt Spring residents hoping to get on or off the island in the usual way that evening, the extra ferry traffic was an unexpected obstacle. People travelling on Vancouver Island whose plans were turned upside down by the road closure were impacted even more.

A 2015 Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure report about highway closures explains that accident sites must be thoroughly investigated by the RCMP because they are potential crime scenes. Examining the area in detail and documenting it with photographs must be undertaken once the victims have received medical treatment and hazardous materials are dealt with. That whole process obviously takes time. But why it needs a highway to be completely closed for 13 hours beggars belief.  Videotaping every square inch of a scene can be done relatively quickly, for instance.

When such incidents occur, it seems incredible that emergency services cannot accommodate at least one creeping lane of traffic past the trouble spot along a shoulder within at least a few hours of the incident. Instead of commissioning ways to reduce the amount of time required to process crash scenes, politicians have called for new roads to be constructed or even a bridge to be built from north of the Malahat to Saanich Peninsula. Clearly the expenditure required for either of those scenarios is not justified in order to accommodate the rare occasions when roads are fully closed.

The best way to reduce road closures is to cut down on the reason they occur, which is usually due to poor driving practices resulting in an accident. Most often, crashes are speed related. Serious enforcement of speed limits and improved signage on the Malahat would go a long way towards making the road safer and reducing those road-closing crashes in the first place.

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