By Barett Poley
Abbotsford, British Columbia -- December 5, 2016 -- A spike in accidents along a dangerous stretch of BC highway has reopened the discussion about widening the road.
The Fraser Valley stretch of Trans-Canada Highway 1 has seen an unprecedented climb in collisions, with a growth of more than 50 percent since 2011, according to a report by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). The insurer reports that accidents last year alone reached more than 450, compared to just over 300 in 2011. The incidents of crashes this year are expected to be the highest ever, according to the report.
Collisions aren’t just occurring more often; they’re more dangerous, as well, with a 40 percent increase in collisions causing injury. The two-lane highway is reportedly a nightmare for any commuter, and it’s quickly becoming one of the busiest two lane stretches of highway in Canada.
Traffic has increased substantially on this stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway in recent years. Populations in nearby communities have boomed, but the infrastructure has not been upgraded to keep pace with growth in population. According to a recent report by Statistics Canada, BC's population is projected to grow by as many as two million people. Most of them are expected to situate themselves in the metropolitan areas closest to Vancouver. such as Chilliwack and Abbotsford, communities near to Trans-Canada Highway 1.
According to Larry Nizio, Shop Manager for Abbotsford Centre - Craftsman Collision, the problem has been building for a long time.
“There has been a massive influx of people into the Fraser valley due to lower housing costs compared to the City of Vancouver, the population has been spiking for the past few years,” he says when asked about the increased rate of collision over the last few years. “We’re getting more apartments, more condominiums, and as a result, the highways and roadways in town are getting busier and more dangerous. Accidents are becoming more frequent and more severe, because people are still driving at highway speeds, and there are so many more people on the road.”
He says business has been far busier than usual in the area as a result of the higher number of collisions. “The number of collisions has been huge. There’s been a drastic increase over the last calendar year of people coming into the shop for autobody repair. Currently I’m booking about two weeks out,” says Nizio
The effects, he says, can be felt for him both as a collision repairer and as a commuter. Despite the uptick in business, he wishes that the highway would be expanded for the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved.
“The highway expansion has yet to actually come out to the Fraser valley, so along our stretches of highway you still just have two lanes each way plus one HOV lane, which simply isn’t enough,” says Nizio.
The government of BC is soliciting public input into the issue through the Highway 1 Four-Laning project.