Barriers in the budget

Apr 17 • Feature Story, Local NewsNo Comments on Barriers in the budget

This image shows barriers in place west of Chatham-Kent along Highway 401, something that is missing along the highway through the heart of this municipality.

On a day last week with another critical injury incident in Carnage Alley, a section of Highway 401 known for multiple accidents and fatalities, the province announced the widening of Hwy. 401 between Tilbury and London.

A local group advocating for a concrete barriers on this section of the highway are hopeful the announcement will mean the project will move forward sooner rather than later.

In his first budget presentation as Finance Minister, Vic Fedeli announced a four-lane to six-lane expansion, heeding calls from citizens concerned about safety on the 401 between London and Tilbury.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Alysson Storey, founder of Build the Barrier, a grassroots advocacy group calling for concrete median barriers on Hwy. 401 between London and Tilbury. “It’s reassuring to see the highway widening commitment in writing. Now it’s time we see it in reality.”

The Build the Barrier group was formed in September 2017 by family and friends of people killed in crossover collisions on Hwy. 401 in Chatham-Kent and Elgin County, otherwise known as “Carnage Alley.” The group has been working with Chatham-Kent-Essex MPP Rick Nicholls and MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London Jeff Yurek, who is now Transportation Minister.

“Minister Yurek lives in Carnage Alley and has worked with us on this issue since Day One. He knows firsthand the dangers drivers face on a daily basis on this out-dated stretch of highway. I have no doubt the reason why this was included in the budget is because he pushed for it and we are very thankful for that. We just cannot ignore the fact there have been at least 15 incidents in Carnage Alley, including three fatalities, between London and Tilbury in 2019 alone. That’s one every six days – including today. It’s time to put words into action. And that means a concrete median barrier along with six lanes,” Storey noted.

Nicholls was very pleased his government was able to make the announcement in its first budget, culminating in months of advocacy work with the Build the Barrier group.

“I feel good about that. It’s not a formal announcement yet, but it is in the budget which was the big tip off,” Nicholls said in a phone interview. “It’s good. I’ve been advocating for that, as has Jeff (Yurek) too. The good news is once he became Minister of Transportation, I had a direct line to him and bending his ear on this issue. It’s great news.”

Nicholls said what makes that stretch of road dangerous is inexperienced drivers, including truckers, and driver impatience, distraction and fatigue. He added while cable barriers have prevented some cross-overs, there is a serious problem on that stretch of highway.

There have been a total of nine fatalities and multiple hospitalizations in collisions on Hwy. 401 between Tilbury and London since February 2017, along with numerous incidents that caused significant property damage and road closures, but did not require hospitalization.

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