*Editor’s Note: This is a copy of a letter sent to provincial Transportation Minister Claire Trevena and copied to Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes MLA, Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty and Transportation Deputy Minister Grant Main
Re. Concerns Respecting Impact of West Fraser Road Detour via Garner Road and Webster Lake Road (the “Detour”) and the Conditions of the Detour
The Quesnel Cattlemen’s Association (QCA) is deeply concerned regarding the condition of the detour and the variety of issues which the detour has created already and has the potential to continue to create. A large portion of the membership of the Quesnel Cattlemen’s Association has been negatively impacted by this Detour, and the Quesnel Cattlemen’s Association urges the responsible parties to take action to ensure that the whole of West Fraser Road is re-opened as soon as possible and, in the meantime, that the Detour be responsibly upgraded to mitigate as many negative impacts as possible.
A few of the Quesnel Cattlemen’s Association’s greatest concerns with respect to the detour are as follows:
1. The impact of the detour upon children taking the school bus is unacceptable. Of primary concern is the children’s safety. Portions of the Detour (particularly an “S” curve on the Webster Lake Road through which the school bus is not able to pass at the same time as an oncoming logging truck or tractor trailer) are unsafe at the best of times and extremely unsafe in winter conditions. Compounding this is inadequate maintenance, from failure to properly sand the detour in icy conditions to substantial delays in plowing snow to failure to grade the road when washboards and potholes present significant driving hazards. A variety of reports have indicated the school bus was forced to drive over the unsafe road in unplowed conditions after fresh snow. In addition to safety, children riding the bus have had their riding times more than double (some children on the route spend approximately two hours each way), which has a detrimental impact on their mental health and ability to spend meaningful time with their families.
2. Increased potential for accidents caused by detour and its inadequate maintenance. Given the inadequate maintenance and unsafe portions of the detour, there is a significant increased potential for accidents — even more so in the event an emergency vehicle were required to traverse the Detour in time-sensitive circumstances. While the QCA does not have access to accident reports for the Detour to prove such increased potential, anecdotal reports from its own membership would indicate a substantial increase in motor vehicle incidents on the Detour since its implementation (vs. the number on the old West Fraser Road).
3. Single-lane bridge over Narcosli Creek on Webster Lake Road is unsafe. The bridge over Narcosli Creek is an extremely narrow single-lane bridge, which was not built for the volume nor the type of traffic which is crossing it on a daily basis. The bridge poses a hazard to trucks crossing it, and its weight limits are not acceptable for the purpose for which it is now utilized.
4. The detour is negatively impacting Quesnel businesses. Many residents of West Fraser Road who live to the south of the detour and who previously travelled to Quesnel to conduct their business have limited their trips to Quesnel due to the detour, resulting in their conducting fewer business transactions in Quesnel. As many of these residents have begun to travel to Williams Lake instead, they have taken business that would previously been transacted in Quesnel to Williams Lake.
5. The detour is not a viable alternate route when Highway 97 between Quesnel and Williams Lake is closed. West Fraser Road, before the implementation of the detour, was used as an alternate route when the above-mentioned section of Highway 97 was closed/impassable due to accidents or other incidents. While it is no longer technically approved as an alternate route, it is still used as such by those who know the area or have access to GPS. Given the above-noted issues with the detour, it is not a viable alternate route, and when it is used as such, the high volume of traffic creates significant risk to all those using the road and amplifies the danger of a serious accident occurring. As well, signage for the detour is extremely poor.
6. The detour has many other significant negative impacts. In addition to the above, other issues caused by the detour include substantial increases in wear and tear on the vehicles of those who must travel over the detour, increased fuel costs and a bloated carbon footprint.
While the Quesnel Cattlemen’s Association understands that the cause of the implementation of the detour was outside of the control of the applicable ministries and decision makers, the delay in reconstructing West Fraser Road, the condition of the detour and the inadequate maintenance of the detour are unacceptable. As noted above, there are substantial issues that must be addressed, and the Quesnel Cattlemen’s Association urges the responsible parties to take action to resolve these issues as soon as possible.