Manitoba’s commitment to twinning the stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway entering Northwestern Ontario is welcome news

·2 min read

“Elated” is how Peter Lugli described the reaction by his family upon getting a reply from Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson who agreed to twin the stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway entering Ontario. “It’s frankly the single ray of light to come out the dark episode for us,” he said.

Lugli is the brother and uncle of a Dryden man, Mark Lugli and his son, Jacob, who were killed in an accident on the stretch of the Trans-Canada near Falcon Lake, Manitoba in July of 2019.

He sent an open letter to Stefanson on behalf of the Lugli and Konkle families in mid-August to raise awareness about what he called, “a particularly problematic stretch of highway that links the Ontario border to Winnipeg, and as people in the Northwest will know is about 10 miles or 17kms of road, single lane road then it becomes a double lane highway.”

The letter was sent to coincide with the sentencing of the driver of the transport truck involved in the accident which killed Mark and Jacob, which had been scheduled to happen at the end of August, but has now been pushed back to October. “So we thought that if there was any good that could come out of this whole thing… [It would be] trying to raise awareness to get the [Manitoba] government to commit to twinning that highway would prevent future tragedies from happening.”

Stefanson replied to the letter with her condolences and with details about the next steps. This included tendering for the engineering conceptual and design studies, starting consultation with stakeholders including the Indigenous communities, and consulting with Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation to align project work.

The Manitoba Premier also wrote about interim safety improvements so far and stated “we have installed information signs about access to Barren Lake Road, trimmed the brush at the intersection to improve sightlines, and installed “No Stopping” signs to address parked vehicles at the intersection.”

The province said in a statement it will move the Trans-Canada Highway twinning project up the infrastructure priority list for both trade and safety reasons. It added that preliminary clearing activity could start by 2023.

“We’re happy that… concrete steps are being taken,” said Lugli. “The commitment from the Premier is clear to twin that highway so that this kind of tragedy doesn’t happen to families ever again.”

Growing up in the North and driving the highway Lugli said, “is a white-knuckle experience anytime of year. This was in plain sunlight in the summertime, with perfect driving conditions and [people] know how harrowing driving that trans-Canada Highway can be.”

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source