Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba's highway of death

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Another grisly death on the controversial Highway 6, specifically the stretch in the Interlake, has revived the clamour for safety measures on that road, which has claimed eight lives already this year. The province says its analysis shows this highway is no more dangerous than other comparable roads in Manitoba. A little more thought should go into that calculation.

The provincial government's Infrastructure and Transportation department calculates the rate at which collisions take place based on "per million vehicle kilometres." The stretch between the Perimeter and Warren has a lower- than-average rate, the province notes. But that is comparing its collisions to the blizzard of fender-benders on a busy city road.

Residents and travellers along Highway 6 say there is an inordinate number of people dying on that road, which twists and turns its way from Winnipeg past Warren to Lundar and then north to Thompson. A local Interlake group says statistics show 71 people died or were critically injured on Highway 6 between 2003 and 2009. The provincial government has no statistical comparison of frequency of severe accidents.

Area residents are looking for a redrawing of the highway to take out the curves, broaden the shoulders or twin it. There have been spectacular head-on collisions, similar to the one Tuesday that killed a young woman whose car, witnesses said, veered into the oncoming lane near Grosse Isle. The Honda Civic collided with a semi-trailer and burst into flames. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

This year so far, eight people have died in collisions on Highway 6, including four in one vehicle that ran head-on last May into a school bus just north of Lundar. This with just more than half the year gone.

The province has spent $85 million in the last five years on road work on Highway 6 and has more to spend in the next few years, but does not believe extraordinary measures to improve safety on its stretches are warranted. The toll is mounting, a signal that this highway and the severity of its collisions deserve closer scrutiny and more precision in measuring its hazards.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 27, 2011 A16

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