The provincial government is doing a review of its safety standards for highway maintenance and is considering putting light standards on vulnerable bridges across B.C. following a coroners report into a bridge wash out in 2003.
"What we are going to do is a risk assessment and cost benefit to look and see where protective measures should be implemented," Peter Milburn, assistant deputy minister for the Ministry of Transportation, said this week.
Five people drove off the end of the road and plunged to their deaths after a torrential rainstorm washed out Rutherford Creek Bridge in the early hours of Oct. 18, 2003.
A coroners report into the incident released last December called for the government to investigate installing failure detection and warning systems on at-risk bridges. It also called for Victoria to review the roles and responsibilities, inspection frequencies, methodologies, training and documentation to insure bridges are inspected properly at high risk times.
Milburn said the government was in touch with the U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board, which is also looking into warning devices. If such devices were developed in a cost-effective manner and were reliable B.C. would look at installing them where appropriate.
In the meantime, said Milburn, bridges along the Sea to Sky Highway will all be lit up as part of the $600 million on-going upgrade.
"For the Sea to Sky there would be as part of the project lights for all the bridges," he said.
Other ways to keep bridges safe will also be part of the review, including upgrades to and around at-risk bridges.
The review will be complete in about three months. Findings on the maintenance side can be implemented quite quickly, said Milburn. Upgrades, including technology, may take longer.
One challenge facing engineers, said Milburn, is that there isnt an easily accessible source of electricity for many vulnerable bridges in B.C. so lighting them could be a problem.
"We are taking this very seriously," said Milburn.
"It was obviously a very tragic event that occurred out at the Rutherford and we have had the chief engineer involved in the early part of this and we are setting up an action plan."