By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government promised Tuesday to increase signage and other safety measures at a highway intersection where a crash between a minibus and transport truck killed 17 people in June.
The government is looking at bigger, longer-term changes as part of an ongoing safety review of the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 5, but Premier Heather Stefanson said some interim measures will be taken right away.
“I did speak to the deputy minister this morning, and have been in touch with the minister, and they are looking at what kind of signage we could improve in the area,” Stefanson told reporters.
The crash in June is still being investigated by RCMP. The police service has said the bus carrying seniors to a casino on Highway 5 crossed southbound into the path of the transport truck, which right of way and was eastbound on Highway 1.
The intersection was the site of another crash Monday night that appeared to bear some similarities and sent three people to hospital.
RCMP said an initial investigation determined a southbound pickup truck on Highway 5 entered the intersection and collided with an eastbound SUV. The two vehicles hitting a third one that was waiting at a stop sign.
The provincial department of infrastructure said that in the coming weeks, changes will include new warning signs as drivers approach the intersection. Pavement markings are to be refreshed, as will rumble strips on Highway 5 that warn motorists to slow down as they approach the intersection.
Over the medium term, and depending on the outcome of the safety review expected in the fall, ideas such as a reduced speed limit and traffic lights could be considered, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk said.
Eventually, the intersection could be turned into an overpass, along with similar junctures on the Trans-Canada Highway.
“That is something we have to look at in the future,” Piwniuk said, pointing to increased traffic volumes.
The current intersection sees no disruption for motorists heading east or west on the Trans-Canada Highway. Drivers on Highway 5 have a large stop sign when they first get to the intersection. After crossing two lanes going in one direction, they arrive at a median and are met with a yield sign before crossing the remaining two lanes.
Ray Muirhead, the mayor of Carberry, a town just south of the intersection, said the juncture was built for traffic volumes in the 1960s and needs to be upgraded.
“We’ve talked about traffic lights. I don’t know if that’s the answer but, in the immediate (term), something like that — maybe reduce the speed down to 80 kilometres (an hour),” Muirhead said.
A long-term solution could include a cloverleaf interchange or a roundabout, he added.
Town officials, along with those in the nearby municipality of North Cypress-Langford, have started an online petition calling for immediate safety improvements.
Muirhead said drivers also have to do their part by exercising caution. The intersection is on a flat stretch of land, unobstructed by trees, and is similar to many other junctures along the Trans-Canada Highway in Manitoba.
“I have seen more near misses this summer than I have in my entire life, and it’s just people are not paying attention,” he said. “They are careless. They are in such a hurry to get to where they got to go.”