The Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways says they have no plans to install traffic lights or build an overpass at the intersection of Highway 11 and Wanuskewin Road, in the wake of a rise in collisions and a car crash that left a family of four dead.
Despite the intersection’s reputation as a high collision area, Communications director Doug Wakabayashi said a 2014 independent safety study showed it is no more dangerous than others of its kind in the province.
“Although, the collision frequency is increasing faster than traffic volume, which may indicate some deterioration of safety at that intersection,” he said
Jordan and Chanda Van de Vorst, along with their two pre-school children Miguire and Kamryn were driving home on Highway 11 just after midnight Sunday when a Jeep Wrangler tried to cross the highway from Wanuskewin Road and collided with the family’s car.
Jordan and Chanda were pronounced dead at the scene while their children, two-year-old Miguire and five-year-old Kamryn died in hospital. The driver of the Jeep, Catherine McKay, is charged with three counts of impaired driving causing death and RCMP have said more charges are pending.
Since then, public outcry to improve safety at the intersection has spiked.
“We’ve got a rural highway servicing urban traffic. It’s a perfect storm,” Corman Park Reeve Judy Harwood said. “I’m watching people trying to make turns and honestly I think some times they cross their fingers and hope that everything’s going to be okay.”
Harwood would like to see traffic lights installed, similar to what the City of Saskatoon did when they took control of the Marquis Drive and Highway 16 intersection, but Wakabayashi said the ministry has no such plans.
“It’s an urban fringe environment where drivers aren’t expecting traffic lights,” he said, adding they have studied data from other jurisdictions. “When you put traffic signals at those sorts of environments, any reduction you see in right angle and t-bone collisions is typically more than offset in rear end collisions and at highways speeds, rear end collisions can be very serious.”
Residents won’t see an overpass at the intersection either because of the future Saskatoon Freeway. The section of the freeway that connects with Highway 11 will create an overpass right next to the Wanuskewin turn. Once the overpass is complete, the Wanuskewin intersection will be closed.
A route has been chosen for the North Perimeter Highway, but no timeline has been set for construction and may take years to set.
“Unfortunately, we tell people we’re planning, but it all takes time and time is not always on the side of situations like this,” Harwood said.
Over the years, the province has built dedicated left turn lanes and right turn merge lanes on Highway 11, installed more lighting and signage warning drivers there’s an intersection ahead and to yield to traffic on the highway.
“Safety on the provincial highway system is our highest concern and it was really disheartening to hear about the (impaired driving) charges that were laid in relation to his collision,” Wakabayashi said. “Ultimately the most important factor in ensuring safe roads is driver behaviour.”
Wakabayashi said they could prevent people from turning left, but it would consider further consultation with municipalities, local businesses and road users.
Harwood said she also worries that solution would push more and faster traffic onto Idylwyld Drive and ignore the actual problem. She would like to see the speed limit reduced around the intersection.