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Changes made following ‘absolutely ridiculous’ winter on the Coquihalla

Living up to its nasty reputation, the Coquihalla Highway was closed over 20 times last winter, including one accident that sent 29 people to hospital.

Maintenance, commercial vehicles and policing were cited as problems by Merritt’s Mayor Neil Menard, who began lobbying in the spring for improvements to the highway.

<who> Photo Credit: Drive BC.

According to Menard, several meetings with the Minister of Transportation have proven successful and led to changes along the Coquihalla just in time for the winter season.

Better response times by maintenance crews has been promised and multiple sections of the highway have been repaved, making it easier for snowplows to properly remove snow and ice.

The Box Canyon truck stop has been expanded, with the capacity for 70 commercial vehicles to stop and chain up or even wait out snowstorms.

<who> Photo Credit: Drive BC.

Improved policing has also been assured, with B.C.’s Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) promising to step up vehicle inspection and permit checks for commercial vehicles.

"We've had the ear of the Minister of Transportation, we know she is concerned and doesn't want to see any more damage along the highway," said Menard.

"Maintenance needed improvement and we've been very assertive with ICBC that commercial truck drivers get the proper training before driving on mountainous roads during winter months."

<who> Photo Credit: Hope Search and Rescue.

Even with the changes, Menard insists his government's lobbying isn't finished and that municipalities will be keeping a close eye on the Coquihalla's maintenance throughout the winter.

"I believe the 120 km/hr speed limit is too fast for that stretch of highway especially during the winter," said Menard.

"That speed limit has to be reduced as soon as they see a snowstorm coming, take it right down to 90 km/hr before the storm hits."

Snow tire regulations are now in effect for B.C. highways, with some stretches of highway already seeing heavy snow in September.

For those preparing to drive the Coquihalla, click here to check weather conditions.

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