Transportation ministry looking into construction zone accident

Poorly-marked Hwy 37 mainenance sends vehicle into ditch

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is looking into the circumstances that contributed to single-vehicle accident in a Hwy 37 construction zone.

The accident occurred July 2 near Mt. Layton Hot Springs. Regular work crews were off duty for the long weekend.

According to Terrace RCMP who attended the scene around 6:50 p.m. the vehicle and three occupants struck what police describe as a pothole in the northbound lane. The driver lost control and went into the ditch. All three were treated on scene with minor injuries by paramedics.

The driver was issued a violation ticket for driving contrary to restriction — meaning a new driver with too many passengers or with a small, but present blood alcohol content.

Kitimat resident Gerry Leibel, editor of the Northern Sentinal newspaper, also struck the hole that weekend and reported the spot was marked by a warning sign directly at the site.

He estimated the hole was four to five inches deep. Driving a full-size pickup truck he said the impact was loud and jarring but he was able to keep control of the vehicle.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation said the hole was part of a gravel base repair in advance of the highway re-paving project.

“We are sorry to hear about the accident that took place at this spot, and we hope that no one was hurt as a result. We are currently reaching out to the maintenance contractor to determine where signage was placed, why this accident took place, and how we can avoid situations like this in the future.”

The province’s contractor for the region is Nechako Northcoast Construction. At press time the company did not respond to interview requests.

The province says the contractor had performed weekend patrols on the highway to check on the site and also attended the scene once they were informed of the incident.

“It is always the intention to avoid or reduce unexpected conditions in the travelled lanes in the first place,” the ministry spokesperson said when asked about signage policies. “In situations where there is not a specific layout outlined in the Traffic Control Manual, the expectation is to adequately sign and mark the unexpected condition in a lane – so that drivers are aware.”

The repair work was filled in shortly after the accident.

Repaving of Hwy37 South has been a long-standing goal of the District of Kitimat and others because, after years of industrial use, the surface has rutted in sections, creating bumpy driving conditions.

The state of the road drew the attention of senior officials of BC Emergency Health Services, the provincial body responsible for the BC Ambulance Service, when they toured the area last fall.

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