Pave the way for more truck traffic on Highway 16, Chamber says

As truck traffic grows, Houston's Chamber of Commerce is calling on the province to upgrade Highway 16.

Growing truck traffic to northern mining projects and the Port of Prince Rupert has Houston’s Chamber of Commerce calling for improvements to Highway 16.

Chamber manager Maureen Czirfusz says Highway 16 should be built to match the traffic Victoria expects will grow here.

“They’re promoting the decade of the north, but we only have one highway,” Czirfusz said.

In May, the BC Chamber of Commerce, which represents chambers in 120 towns and cities across the province, voted in favour of a Houston motion calling for safety and technical improvements on Highway 16 from Prince Rupert to the Alberta border.

Czirfusz said some of the worst stretches of Highway 16 are now obvious to anyone driving west of town.

“When you’re driving down Six Mile Hill and you have to straddle the centre lane to come down it without bouncing, that’s a problem,” she said.

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation is planning to resurface several of those problem sections, including a 40-km stretch between the Tintagel Rest Area and Endako.

Drivers in Houston and Burns Lake can also expect to see new speed-reader signs in the coming months.

Lloyd Bassani of Houston’s Bassani Fuels, says that while road conditions have worsened on Highway 16, speeding drivers are still problem number one for truckers.

“People pass us on double-solid lines and think nothing of it,” he said.

“And I mean, we’ve got 58,000 litres of gasoline,” he added.

“We’re not stopping.”

Bassani says more RCMP should patrol the highway and switch to a zero-tolerance policy for giving out speeding tickets.

As for road conditions, Bassani said he’s seen next to no improvements since he started Highway 16 a dozen years ago—two more pullouts, a brake check in Prince George, and a scale pullout in Smithers.

Bassani also said upkeep beside the highway is very uneven.

“Around Terrace you can see 50 to 60 feet back,” he said. “But from Hazelton to Smithers to Vanderhoof, they don’t do enough brush cutting or grass cutting.”

Regarding truck traffic, Bassani said he’s actually seen it fall along the Houston to Terrace section since the Eurocan pulp and paper mill shut down two years ago.

But there is more traffic closer to Prince George, he said, as fuel and equipment moves to and from northern mines and the Highway 37 transmission line.

A counter on Highway 16 west of Fort Fraser shows that while average annual weekday traffic fluctuated between 2,521 and 2,573 vehicles from 2002 until 2009, traffic jumped to more than 2,800 vehicles in 2010 and 2011.