Is it about money?
Is it about time?
That’s what proponents of the erection of a barrier along Highway 401 through Chatham-Kent are asking the provincial government.
But these really aren’t the right questions. In fact, there is only one right answer: It’s about human lives.
People have died needlessly along the 401 between Queen’s Line in Tilbury and Colonel Talbot Road (Hwy. 4) west of London – a 119-kilometre stretch of four-lane highway that has only a patch of grass separating the eastbound lanes from the westbound lanes.
Grass does little to stop an out-of-control tractor-trailer from careening across all lanes of traffic to slam head on into a vehicle travelling the opposite direction.
The barriers are up along the 401 pretty much everywhere else from Windsor through Toronto in this section of the province.
Why not here?
If provincial officials had their ears anywhere near a meeting last week in Chatham urging them to build concrete barriers, chances are they are still ringing from the vocal consensus in favour of the barriers.
The government knows a barrier is needed. It has been leaning towards cable barriers – steel cables held in place by regularly spaced posts – to help keep vehicles from sliding across into oncoming traffic. But when you consider the sheer volume of heavy truck traffic along the 401, you have to build something that is capable of stopping a fully loaded 18-wheeler.
You may as well put up guitar strings to stop 36 metric tonnes of freight-laden heavy hauler as it heads towards that family in a minivan travelling in the opposite direction.
Put up a concrete barrier and that truck stays on its side of the highway. Sideswipes and rear-end collisions are no treat, but they can be much more survivable than a head-on catastrophe.
Surely the lack of quick action on erecting barriers, or possibly going with the cheaper option, is not due to the political colours flying in Chatham-Kent? Yes, we have a Conservative MPP, and a vocal one, while the government is Liberal.
But it’s about human lives, right?
After all, that’s the only correct answer.