Time to road test Swedish highway model in Northern Ontario, says chamber committee: Temiskaming group feeling vindication that provincial consultants' report backs their case for 2+1.

Author:Ross, Ian

A Temiskaming highway safety group vows to keep the pressure on Queen's Park to trial a proven Swedish-engineered roadway model with a 20-year track record at reducing fatal collisions.

While the Ministry of Transportation's stance isn't entertaining the idea of test-driving the 2+1 model on Ontario highways anytime soon, Mark Wilson of the Going the Extra Mile (GEMS) Committee said a provincially commissioned engineering report makes some findings and recommendations that suggest otherwise.

"The report identifies significant advantages and that a pilot would be something to trial," said Wilson, who provided excerpts of a report, prepared by WSP for the ministry, to Northern Ontario Business.

Wilson said the findings are in stark contrast to the "very negative" remarks MTO staff delivered, in dismissing the 2+1 concept, last April in a special briefing he attended with chamber of commerce representatives and local politicians.

The 2+1 highway configuration was first introduced in Sweden in the 1990s as part of that country's Vision Zero road safety strategy, an ethics-based approach to achieve no fatalities or serious injuries on its highway system.

The three-lane road configuration has continuous and alternating passing lanes with a safety barrier on the centre-line median, made of either cable or a steel barrier. Sweden averages 2.8 highway deaths per 100,000 people, among the world's lowest rates for roadway mortality.

The concept has since been adopted by a number of European countries due to its positive results, but they are rare outside the continent.

According to Wilson, the consultants said installing the 2+1 roadway model will cut fatal collisions on Highway 11--particularly from head-on collisions--by a considerable margin. Head-on collisions accounted for only 12 per cent of the total crashes on Highway 11, but they resulted in 69 per cent of the fatalities.

In one excerpt released by Wilson, the consulting engineers felt the addition of a median barrier in a 2+1 highway "will result in a reduction in annual fatal collisions of approximately 41 per cent."

The consultants further recommended that the pilot study be done on a short section of highway to confirm the benefits and gauge drivers' reactions.

Wilson, a retired occupational health and safety professional, is the research lead for GEMS. The committee is an offshoot of the Temiskaming Shores and Area Chamber of Commerce, which has been championing 2+1 as a cheaper...

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