Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone announces a passing lane for Highway 19 between Campbell River and Sayward.

Passing lane to alleviate driver frustration: Transportation Minister

First $100K goes to finding the right place for it

Drivers traveling between Campbell River and Port Hardy will have another opportunity to pass slower-moving traffic in the coming years, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone announced at the lookout point just past the old Catalyst pulp and paper mill just north of Campbell River Thursday.

“Highway 19 is a key corridor for goods movement here on Vancouver Island,” Stone said at the announcement, pointing out that the stretch is becoming “increasingly busy” with both commercial and recreational traffic.

Stone said there are an average of 2,000 vehicles driving between Sayward and Campbell River every day, “and around 15 per cent of those vehicles are slower moving vehicles, whether they be commercial or recreational in nature.”

Highway 19 from Campbell River to Port Hardy was ranked the second most dangerous stretch of highway on Vancouver Island in an ICBC report earlier this year, which examined the number of fatalities from motor vehicle accidents from 2004 to 2013.

Tammy Fraser of Tammy’s Cafe, located along the highway north of Campbell River, told CTV News after the announcement hers is one of the 2,000 vehicles who drive the road daily, and agrees that the danger lies in frustrated drivers passing when they shouldn’t.

“I don’t know if I’m going to make it home, because I have to go to the grocery store every day in town,” Fraser said.

“So many people (are) passing on the double line, and when you come around the corner, you never know whether there’s going to be another vehicle there (in your lane) passing another vehicle.”

“One of the single greatest frustrations that motorists have is having to – for great lengths of highway – travel behind a slow-moving vehicle, whether it’s recreational or commercial, and that can often result in people taking unnecessary chances,” Stone acknowledged.

The announcement of the start of planning for a passing lane, “somewhere between Campbell River and the Sayward junction,” is an attempt to alleviate these frustrations.

The project will begin by determining a location for the additional lane, which will cost $100,000 and take most of 2016 to complete.

“We’ll be particularly looking at locations where there is (already) extra width, where it would make it possible for us to be able to construct this passing lane, so that the passing can be done, obviously, as safely as possible,” Stone said.

Once a location is determined, the major engineering work and installation of the lane will begin in 2017, Stone said.

And hopefully this improvement is just the first of many.

“This will be the first step in continuing to improve the corridor,” Stone said. “We’re monitoring the traffic volumes frequently, and at the end of the day, this stretch of Highway 19 is becoming increasingly busy…so we’re going to need to continue to enhance safety through this corridor, which will likely mean additional passing lanes beyond this one that we’ve announced today.”

“I would hope that this (passing lane) is the first of many to come.”

Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams was at the announcement, and took the opportunity to thank the minister for the government’s support in improving the infrastructure of the region.

He also pointed out that although the perception by many – and the depiction on the illustration behind him the podium showing the purpose of the passing lane – is that the lane will be used for commercial trucks to pull over to the right to let cars past, “in the summertime, when we have a significant increase in traffic on this road, a lot of tourism and recreational vehicles may be driving the road for the first time and are not used to the twists and turns and curves, may want to just enjoy the drive and the beautiful scenery. They’re the ones that may be pulling over as the trucks go by because they’re busy getting their job done.”

But regardless of who is doing the pulling over and who is doing the passing, Adams said the passing lane, “will have a significant safety benefit and make it far more enjoyable for all drivers and passengers. It’s a great project for Campbell River, for Sayward, and for all of the North Island.”