It’s safe to say there won’t be any changes to speed limits within the City of Trail.
After a lengthy session with B.C. highway managers on Monday – which revealed somewhat surprising stats on average speeds through the Gulch – Trail council learned that 50 clicks will stand for all vehicles driving through town.
“We actually took some data (from the Gulch) for five days last week,” explained Hugh Eberle, district manager for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“The 85th percentile was 63 kilometres per hour and the mean data was 54 kilometres per hour, so it tells you right there that the majority of people are driving the posted speed limit.”
Eberle clarified the general theory behind speed zones.
“I am not sure anyone is aware of this,” he said. “A speed limit isn’t posted to control the speed of traffic, it’s actually the reverse.”
His comment drew some quizzical looks from the governance committee.
“When we design speed zones and speed limits, the speed limit is based on what we call the 85 percentile,” Eberle continued. “So what we do is measure the speed of traffic that goes through a corridor and we look at what 85 per cent of the traffic doing, there are other conditions that go with it, but that’s one of the primary ways we set a speed limit.”
The whole idea is not to punish what the majority of drivers feel comfortable driving, he added.
“When you talk the Gulch, you actually have the best optimum control of the corridor in probably any municipality.”
Council touched on the idea about reducing the speed limit specifically for commercial vehicles driving through town.
Eberle pointed out, “How do you know they are speeding?”
The sheer length and back draft created by commercial vehicles may give the perception that the semis are travelling faster than they actually are, he countered.
“And we don’t mix and match speeds of commercial vehicles and other vehicles on the highway,” Eberle said. “We’ve toyed with doing it at higher specs, but it gets really hard to enforce because of the kinds of commercial vehicles.
“And, in terms of configuration, where do you draw the line?”
On a broader scale, Eberle was joined by Greg Kinnear, road area manager, and district operations manager Dennis Kurylowich to answer council’s inquiries about road conditions through the region over the winter as well as upcoming changes in contractual maintenance plans.
First off, Eberle clarified that the province has never had a bare asphalt policy for highways in winter. That will change next season, when the province legislates a bare asphalt specification when conditions are – 9 C or warmer (pavement temperature).
“So this is new, exciting and challenging for us and the contractors, ” he said. “Considering we live in a winter climate, it can be expensive because of more use of chemicals.”
The province will still allow for compact snow outside the -9 C parameter.
In those cases, new regulations for compact thickness will be in place.
“We will still allow for compact just like we do now,” Eberle clarified. “But now we actually have certain specifications, it can only be so thick, and part of that will also be rules around rutting or potholes within that compact. So it’s going to tighten up the compact conditions for when we are driving on a frozen surface.”
For Class A highways – which includes Highway 22 from Trail to Castlegar and Highway 3B from Rossland to Montrose – snow depth will have to be maintained at 4 cm (centimetres) or less.
Class B highways – such as the stretch from Rossland to the border at Paterson and Highway 3 all the way from Yahk to Castlegar through Christina Lake and to the Anarchist Summit (Osoyoos) – contractors will be required to keep compact thickness at 6 cm or less.
“Another improvement coming is increased patrol frequency,” said Eberle, noting Class A patrol will be upped to every 90 minutes from the current requirement of every four hours. “That is going to be a huge improvement.”
Finally, Eberle emphasized the difficult winter experienced on highways throughout B.C. He noted reports from the Southeast Fire Centre, which recorded frequent heavy snowfalls and double the typical precipitation for January and February.
“As you are aware, we have incidents in the summer time and we have incidents in the winter time,” he continued. “Road conditions are one of many contributing factors.”
He says 30 per cent of drivers still do not have winter tires on their vehicles.
“When you boil it down, it really comes down to the driver and/or the vehicle they have,” Eberle concluded. “There are many factors out there, and the driver needs to adjust their driving too.”