At the regular TNRD Board of Directors meeting on Dec. 17, 2020, former RadioNL host Bob Price made a presentation on behalf of Stump Lake Ranch and residents along Hwy 5A, requesting that a ban on non-local commercial truck traffic along that route be supported by the TNRD.
At the time, the board believed that not enough information had been provided, and were hesitant to commit to a letter of support.
Following a presentation by Ministry of Transportation Regional Operations Manager Graeme Schimpf and Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement District Manager Glenn Taylor in March, the board once again deferred their decision, although both Schimpf and Taylor indicated that 5A was safe for commercial vehicle traffic.
“It definitely had been built and engineered for commercial vehicles, when it was engineered at the time,” said Schimpf.
“And through our repaving and strengthening, it can withstand the load of commercial vehicles on the highway.”
At the April 22 regular Board of Directors meeting, directors once again debated the merit of a non-local commercial vehicle ban on Hwy 5A.
“It seems to make common sense to me that the Coq. is the safer place for this traffic to be,” said Director of Area P, Mel Rothenburger.
“To say that the Coquihalla and 5A are equally as safe for commercial semi-truck traffic really doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Rothenburger proceeded to read a series of news headlines from the past several years, highlighting accidents that had happened along the secondary route.
“‘Trucker killed in fiery crash’… ‘Crash on Hwy 5A claims life of truck driver’, ‘driver lucky to be alive’, ‘Hwy 5A closed after fiery semi crash’, ‘crash closes Hwy 5A’, and on it goes,” said Rothenburger.
Director Ward Stamer, mayor of Barriere, spoke in favour of the ban.
“Nobody can tell us that that highway was designed for those long lumber trucks, it wasn’t… there shouldn’t be any reason why we really need to have those long trucks on that road.”
David Laird, Director of Area M, Beautiful Nicola Valley – North, spoke in favour of the ban, as did Director for Area N, Beautiful Nicola Valley – South, Herb Graham.
“I find it’s just simply a safety issue and they don’t need to take that road when they can take the Coquihalla,” said Graham.
“… in this case the Coquihalla ‘Super Highway’ is readily available for them to use,” agreed Director Barbara Roden, Village of Ashcroft Director.
“I see absolutely no reason why truckers cannot be using the Coquihalla instead of 5A.”
Merritt Mayor, Linda Brown, spoke against the letter of support, indicating that the issue was not the road, but improperly prepared and undertrained drivers.
“I won’t be voting for this, for the reason that for five years the City (Merritt) has gone to the Ministry talking about a mandatory entry level training program for drivers,” said Brown.
“Not all drivers fit the bill of driving too fast, driving dangerously, it’s just some of them that do that… And every time you hear of something that one of these drivers have done, it’s because they have gone over the guidelines. It’s not just they’re driving on it and they have an accident, they’re doing something, by driving irresponsibly that causes that. So, for us, in the City, it isn’t a ‘get all truckers off the road’, it’s do something with the truckers that are unsafe on the road.”
Brown explained that a new mandatory entry level training program was being introduced by the province, and that there could be a reduction of speed along the route, and more enforcement, rather than a ban.
“These are public roads paid for by taxpayer dollars, they’re not meant to be private roads just for the people that live on them,” said Brown.
The motion to draft a letter of support was carried with Directors Elliot, Quinn, Brown and Talarico, as well as Chair Gillis, opposed.
Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald