In the wake of the incident involving a logging truck and Pembina Hills school bus in Barrhead on Nov. 2, the question has been raised by some residents regarding the safety of the route that the truck was following.
However, Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney says the circumstances of this “freak accident” and the lack of other incidents occurring at that intersection would not trigger a review by the province.
Following the Nov. 2 incident, the Barrhead Leader — prompted by questions raised over social media and in e-mails to the newspaper — reached out to Town of Barrhead mayor Dave McKenzie to ask if the town should consider a different route for trucks hauling logs or even other hazardous materials.
McKenzie clarified that because the accident occurred at the intersection of Highways 33 and 18 and the logging truck was travelling on a provincial highway, the municipality has no jurisdiction over this matter.
“Any changes to the approved route would be up to Alberta Transportation,” said McKenzie.
The Leader then reached out to the province and was able to arrange an interview on Nov. 4 with the transportation minister.
First, Sawhney expressed her relief that no one was seriously hurt in the accident, acknowledging that one student was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
“I can only imagine how frightened the parents were and the children were,” she said.
She added a thank-you for the first responders who aided the students, investigated the scene and ultimately cleared it for traffic to resume.
Second, Sawhney pointed out that this accident occurred at low-speed and was not a typical accident that you would see on a provincial highway.
“I would almost characterize it as a freak accident,” she said, adding that the RCMP investigation has determined there were some errors made by the driver who had over-loaded the truck.
Third, Sawhney said that the province would “absolutely” investigate further if the accident could be attributed to faulty infrastructure or malfunctioning traffic lights.
She suggested the province would also conduct a review if a high number of accidents were occurring at that intersection.
However, faulty infrastructure was not to blame here, and there haven’t been a lot of issues with this intersection aside from the Nov. 2 incident, she said.
“This particular accident does not trigger a systemic review of whether big trucks should be travelling on this highway, but in other cases we do,” she said.
If residents were determined to lobby the province to change the route that logging trucks and other vehicles travelled, they could reach out to Alberta Transportation by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sawhney said she is glad that people are raising questions about whether this is a safe intersection or if there are other issues at play.
“If people don’t raise the questions, then you don’t get that deeper understanding of what happened,” she said.