MLA Kevin Krueger said a petition urging the province to ban non-resident heavy truck traffic from Highway 5A contains 1,450 names — the strongest endorsement of any citizen-led petition drive he's seen.
After tabling the petition in the legislature on Monday, Krueger cautioned that such a ban would probably go beyond the authority of the highways minister since it is without precedent in B.C.
"I truly believe that it should be the first," he said, adding that he's writing Premier Christy Clark and Transportation Minister Mary Polak to reinforce the show of names. "People are already quite sincerely horrified by truck traffic."
He tabled the petition after question period.
"I haven't counted the signatures," he told the house earlier in the day, "but the constituents who gathered say that it reflects the view, they believe, of 98 per cent of the people who live along Highway 5A near Kamloops."
Safety has been a growing concern along the secondary route as commercial transport traffic increased in recent years.
While making modest safety improvements, the ministry has maintained that the accident rate along the two-lane highway is below average, but residents countered that statistics do not account for close calls. A head-on collision last fall that claimed the lives of two truck drivers convinced many that change is overdue.
Bob Swart, an area resident, led the petition drive by a group of volunteers over the past month in the hope that public pressure would help bring about change.
Only six people between Merritt and Hugh Allan Drive in Kamloops refused to sign the petition, he said. The number of residents who put their names to the proposal speaks volumes about the level of concern, he added.
"We're looking for the ministry to make precedence on this issue, being proactive rather than reactive," Swart said.
When they were canvassed for opinions, some residents wondered how long the ministry can turn a blind eye, knowing that non-resident truckers are avoiding the weigh scale on the Coquihalla Highway. Others wondered how much more carnage will occur before the government acts.
"Now they're well aware of it and they have an opportunity here to save some lives in the future or at least reduce the amount of tragedy," Swart said.
Krueger said the majority of truckers drive responsibly and only a few rogues are risking safety. Those drivers would continue to drive dangerously even if a weigh scale were installed on the route, he said.
Politicians are concerned that a non-resident big-rig ban would set a precedent for similar requests along other B.C. highways, but Krueger said he believes there is an argument to be made for an exception in this case.
"I don't know if any other constituency would have such a compelling case because of the excellent alternative over the hill in the Coquihalla."