Variable speed signs are being installed on sections of the Coquihalla, the Trans-Canada, and the Sea to Sky Highway, as part of a pilot project to help reduce the frequency of weather-related crashes.
With the rapidly changing weather we get in parts of B.C., such as rain turning to snow very quickly, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is about to launch this new safety tool – electronic signs which will warn drivers to slow down in bad weather.
“As a part of our Rural Highway Safety and Speed Review, we looked at how we could help reduce crashes related to bad weather conditions. One of the ideas was to introduce new digital variable speed limit signs, in areas where the weather can change quickly and sometimes catch drivers off guard,” said Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone. “The electronic signs will adjust the speed limit to let drivers know what speed they should be travelling during winter weather conditions, to help them reach their destination safe and sound.”
Crews are installing 18 variable speed signs along Highway 1 from Perry River to Revelstoke, 13 along the Coquihalla from Portia Interchange to the former Toll Plaza and 16 along the Sea to Sky from Squamish to Function Junction.
There will be at least two to three months of testing before the systems go live. The testing phase is important, to ensure the systems are robust, reliable and appropriately calibrated to reflect highway conditions before they are turned on. The systems are expected to go live in early 2016.
“These variable speed signs will be a great addition to our community, which is often subject to challenging weather and road conditions that can change rapidly,” said West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy. “These routes are some of the busiest in the region, and having the ability to adjust speed limits to fit weather conditions is an innovative way we can increase safety for all road users.”
“The variable speed limit signs along the Coquihalla Highway will help improve safety along this major transportation corridor,” said Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness. “This is an innovative way to help reduce crashes in an area with rapidly changing weather.”
“Doing what’s necessary to make the Trans-Canada Highway as safe as possible is an ongoing commitment,” said Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo. “Weather and road conditions can be unpredictable for much of the year in mountainous terrain, but variable speed limit signs will give travellers real-time information and reduce the likelihood of speed-related crashes.”
The digital signs will be very visible to drivers, and the speed limit will be changed to reflect driving conditions. Overhead message signs at the entrance of each corridor will inform drivers that they are entering a variable speed zone, and to be aware of changing weather conditions.
Whether it is extreme cold, freezing rain or heavy snowfall, the extensive system of traffic, pavement and visibility sensors will be calibrated to detect the conditions and provide a recommended speed to operations staff. This information will be used to continuously update the speed shown on digital signs, to help drivers know a safe driving speed during adverse weather conditions.
"Speeding is the leading cause of fatal car crashes in B.C.," said Chief Constable Neil Dubord, chair of the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police Traffic Safety Committee. "Seven out of 10 speed-related crashes are related to driving too fast for the road conditions. Police across B.C. are urging drivers to be alert, slow down and adjust their driving for the conditions."
The ministry has invested $12.5 million to install and run the three pilot systems. This pilot program is part of the ministry's $25-million per-year Roadside Safety Program, as announced in B.C. on the Move.
B.C. on the Move is available online at http://engage.gov.bc.ca/transportationplan/