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RCMP pilot project aimed at shortening road closures on Highway 99

Police will fly investigator up from Lower Mainland on case-by-case basis



A pilot project developed by the RCMP looks to cut back on police response times and road closures following accidents on Highway 99.

Convened in partnership with Lower Mainland Traffic Services (LMTS) and the RCMP’s Integrated Collisions Analysis and Reconstruction Service (ICARS), the initiative will see police fly a traffic reconstructionist via helicopter from the Lower Mainland on a case-by-case basis following major accidents on the Sea to Sky Highway.

In the past, ICARS investigators have typically had to drive to the scene from the Vancouver area.

“The overall objective is to, as efficiently and quickly as possible, obtain the vast amount of investigative material that we need to obtain in cases such as these as well (as) ensuring the road is opened to traffic as soon as possible,” said Whistler RCMP Staff Sgt. Paul Hayes in a statement.

Highway closures are something the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and other resort stakeholders have looked at closely in recent months. After receiving a report in June on protocols for road closures on Highway 99, the RMOW announced in October that it would form a working group to act on some of the study’s recommendations.

Among the recommendations the group will consider, include: installing high-visibility mileage markers; additional CCTV cameras at spots where the highway experiences frequent closures; working with police to conduct regular vehicle and tire checks; and focusing highway patrols on areas prone to longer unplanned road closures.

The working group is made up of representatives from the RMOW, the District of Squamish, the Squamish-Lillooet-Regional District, Whistler RCMP, LMTS, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation, ICBC, Miller Capilano, Mainroad Group, ECOMM and the Regional Transportation Management Centre.

"(Highway closures have) a negative impact on the experience both for residents and guests alike, then there is of course the economic impact from people missing flights, people heading north who just turn around and go home, cancelling their hotel reservations, there's the economic cost to residents, who may be trying to get home or trying to get to their job," said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in an interview with Pique last fall.

In 2015, there were 566 highway closures on the Sea to Sky, of which 146 were unexpected and related to emergency response, according to provincial data.

The average length of the closures during that period was about two hours.

For more on this story, pick up next Thursday’s Pique.