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Letter to the editor: Highway safety

Dear editor,

I would really like to highlight highway safety, in particular the left-hand turn into the Jasper cemetery. It has been a huge issue since Parks removed not only the left turn lane but the signage indicating that there is, in fact, a cemetery there. Making that turn is now next to impossible. There is usually a long wait for a break in oncoming traffic, and very little room on the highway for a vehicle to pass the vehicle waiting to make the turn.

Let me share a personal story to illustrate why this is so important to me: Last summer, I was driving my elderly father to the cemetery to pay our respects to my recently deceased mother. As we approached, I signalled to indicate my intention to turn, but I had to come to a full stop because of traffic approaching in the opposite direction. There was quite a line of traffic, as often happens. I could see, in my rear-view mirror, a semi-truck coming up behind us at a great speed. He was travelling far too fast and it was not yet safe for me to cross the highway. The trucker (from behind) was not slowing down and I realized that it would be impossible for him to stop. At the last second, he blasted his horn for me to move. Where? As his truck began fishtailing across the highway, I had no choice but to bolt through the oncoming traffic, narrowly escaping not only a rear-end collision, but a head-on as well. 

My experience is not uncommon. Other people in Jasper have related to me their own narrow misses and their anger that that particular turn has become impossible. Some people suggested that to avoid it, they drive further down the highway to the first pull-off and do a U-turn across the double line of the highway. Others cross the bridge and circle the triangle where the Lodge road and Maligne road divide. Neither of these are safe and sensible answers.   

While the RCMP have been vigilant about ticketing people exceeding the speed limit in that area, it does not solve the problem. The left turn continues to pose huge traffic safety hazards. 

During my conversations with Park’s highways maintenance, I was told about the turn lane’s removal as a result of a Banff study that concluded ours could/should/would be removed. And it was. What sense does that make? Our needs are obviously not the same as those of Banff. There was a prior need in Jasper for the turn. Its removal is ludicrous. There has been a marked increase in tourist traffic and a huge increase of commercial transport vehicles. Why do people going out to the cemetery need to now risk life and limb to make that left turn? 

Beth Everest,
Jasper, Alta.

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