How to Build a Highway

TranBC logoThe more that I learn about how to construct one of BC's highways, the more I see how complicated that job really is. One would think that you decide where to go, level off a pathway, build a few bridges, throw down some pavement, put up a few signs and we're good to go. I don't know if a person could find a better way to understate the task than my last sentence!

As a driver, we probably give some thought to why an intersection is built the way it is, how do decide on the marking of a speed zone or what the rules might be for installing median barriers. The Engineering Branch Publications page of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's web site is a virtual library of information. There are PDF documents explaining standards from environmental concerns though to pedestrian crossings and traffic light controller operation. If you are an engineer at heart, you will be reading for a long time here.

One of the standards organizations behind the scenes is the Canadian Institute of Transportation Engineers (CITE). The group is one of many from more than 70 countries who are responsible for the safe and efficient movement of people and goods on streets, highways and transit systems. The CITE web site also contains publications ranging from a quarterly newsletter to a design manual for bicycle facilities.

The next time you are on the road and find yourself saying "I wonder why..." it might be possible to find the answer in one of these resources.

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Submitted by E-mail

Last winter on a dark night I drove out the exit from the north London Drugs, planning to turn left onto Uplands Drive. It was raining and even with the street lights, people in dark clothing were hard to spot. I looked both ways, but saw no cars, so proceeded to turn left.

I came within an eyelash of hitting two people crossing Uplands, legally, in the crosswalk. They had pushed the button and quickly strode across the road. After I screeched on my brakes, then proceed past, I saw that there was a crosswalk light.

Later, I went back to see why I had missed the yellow flashes. When I looked at the light from my point where I had made my error, I saw that the light was shielded to prevent side vision! Worse yet, there is no need for this sort of shield. No driver will seek to “jump this light”, as they do with regular traffic lights.   

Why should these shields not simply be removed?  I have found at least one other intersection where the same fault prevails.

I hope that someone will take notice of my fault and experience and lessen the chances of it happening again. My interest in traffic safety goes back to the mid 1980s when our school, Fairview Elementary, won a $500 award from ICBC for traffic safety projects. At that time, we coined "Read-A-Wreck", a term still on their website.

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