The corridor between Cranbrook, Fernie, Sparwood and the Alberta border is “Ground Zero” for collisions with wildlife in B.C.
And a new high-tech wildlife detection systems will be tested on Highway 3 between Fort Steele and the Alberta border to better warn motorists about the potential for collisions.
Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, announced the testing of the new technology at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday at the Heritage Inn in Cranbrook.
“We recognized that one of the leading causes of collisions in B.C. is the high prevalence of wildlife on many corridors, and nowhere greater than here in the Kootenays,” Stone said. “In fact, the Cranbrook-Fernie-Sparwood (corridor) is pretty much Ground Zero for some of the highest rates of collisions in the province.
“Amongst a number of other initiatives which we’re going to move forward with, like fencing and more LED signs and so forth, we decided we’re going to pilot two wildlife detection systems here in the East Kootenay,” Stone said. “One will be just outside of Sparwood, because that area has the highest incidents of elk collisions in the province — by far. The second system will be just east of Cranbrook and it has one of the highest rates overall of collisions with wildlife, most of which is deer.
“So we thought, ‘nowhere better in the province to pilot these systems than here.’”
The combined value is $1.5 million. Stone said the technology is state of the art, using sensors and radar to identify large wildlife approaching the shoulder of the highway. When a large animal is detected, the system will trigger flashing lights on a warning sign to alert drivers of the potential hazard ahead. Drivers can then lower their speed and take appropriate steps to reduce their chances of hitting the animal.
Approximately 70 per cent of elk fatalities on Highway 3 near Sparwood occurred between October and March, a period when driving conditions are most challenging with less daylight and winter conditions.
Approximately 60 per cent of deer fatalities on Highway 3 occurred between April and September, when many tourists are travelling through the area.
An adult bull elk can weigh as much as 315 kg (700 lb) and a large adult bull moose can approach 700 kg (1540 lb). By comparison, a subcompact sedan weighs approximately 1,100 kg (2400 lb), and a motorcycle weighs between 200 and 350 kg (440-770 lb).
Stone, the MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, was first elected in May, 2013, and the next month was appointed Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure — a big, sprawling, complicated portfolio.
“It’s the best ministry in government, in my opinion,” Stone told the Townsman. “It’s loaded with staff who are all about getting things done. It’s all project-based, there’s a beginning and an end on everything we do.
“I think the greatest challenge — because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenges thus far, and I’ve met the challenges head on, I think — is just the massive scope of transportation infrastructure that we have in this province. We have 47,800 kilometres of road that’s maintained by the Province. You think of the dozens of airports we have, we’ve got about 15 deepwater ports in this province, there’s responsibility for rail, for ICBC … It’s a broad portfolio with lots of responsibilities.”