A dangerous section of Highway 99 North near Lillooet will have concrete barriers installed after months of renewed calls for improved highway safety following a car accident that claimed the lives of a mother and son.
The Ministry of Transportation (MOTI) has announced it will install the barrier this fall along a section of road above the Old Fraser River Bridge continuing onto just past where the CN Rail Bridge crosses the Fraser River.
While drivers have been lobbying for improved conditions along the narrow, winding section of road for years, the public outcry intensified after a car carrying a Squamish family collided with another vehicle on Jan. 2 and plunged down a steep embankment, killing former Whistler resident Trish Donohue and her seven-year-old son, McCaul.
Three years earlier, a 42-year-old Kamloops man was killed just 400 metres north of the site of the January accident when his vehicle plummeted off the roadway into the frigid waters of the Fraser River below.
"It was really encouraging that the ministry responded to the concerns of so many people, but at the same time it's really bittersweet because people's lives were lost and families were changed," said Lillooet resident Deanne Zeidler, who launched a petition calling for road improvements following the accident.
During a special July 27 council meeting, Lillooet Mayor Marg Lampman explained that the ministry divided the section of Highway 99 into 10 segments in order to determine where barriers needed to be placed.
"They have determined, through what they call their warrants system, that that whole section should be continuous concrete barrier," Lampman said. "They had to get special permission on two spots from the head engineer from MOTI because those two spots didn't quite make the warrant requirements, but they were able to get permission to have continuous barrier through that whole section."
Paving along the shoulder of the highway will be required before the barriers can be installed, said Lampman.
Zeidler said the barrier is a good first step, but that work still needs to be done on other sections of road in the region, like narrow portions of Highway 12 and the Duffey Lake Road.
Squamish-Lillooet Regional District board chair Jack Crompton concurred.
"I think the whole area around the Fountain Slide and a couple areas around (the) Pavilion (Indian Band) still need a lot of care," he said. "We'll be continuing to talk to the province about how some of those areas can be addressed."
The community of Lillooet is also considering re-launching a multi-agency group called the Gold Trail Road Safety Committee to address road safety in the area, Zeidler said.
-With files from Wendy Fraser of the Bridge River-Lillooet News