As part of a pilot project to help reduce the frequency of weather-related crashes, the province is installing electronic signs that will warn drivers to slow down in bad weather.
The speed limit in these new digital signs will change to reflect driving conditions.
“We looked at how we could help reduce crashes related to bad weather conditions. One of the ideas was to introduce new digital variable speed limit signs in areas where the weather can change quickly and sometimes catch drivers off guard,” explained Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone. “The electronic signs will adjust the speed limit to let drivers know what speed they should be travelling during winter weather conditions, to help them reach their destination safe and sound.”
Variable speed signs are being installed on sections of the Coquihalla, the Trans-Canada, and the Sea to Sky Highway. But will these variable speed signs be installed on Hwy. 16 any time soon?
According to Sonia Lowe, a Spokesperson with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, it all depends on how successful this project will be over the next few months.
The new signs will undergo at least two to three months of testing before the systems go live. The province says the testing phase is important to ensure the systems are robust, reliable and appropriately calibrated to reflect highway conditions before they are turned on. The systems are expected to go live in early 2016.
“If successful, the ministry will look at other jurisdictions around the province,” said Lowe.
Whether it is extreme cold, freezing rain or heavy snowfall, the extensive system of traffic, pavement and visibility sensors will be calibrated to detect the conditions and provide a recommended speed to operations staff. This information will be used to continuously update the speed shown on digital signs, to help drivers know a safe driving speed during adverse weather conditions.
Overhead message signs at the entrance of each corridor will inform drivers that they are entering a variable speed zone, and to be aware of changing weather conditions.
Crews are installing 18 variable speed signs along Hwy. 1 from Perry River to Revelstoke, 13 along the Coquihalla from Portia Interchange to the former Toll Plaza and 16 along the Sea to Sky from Squamish to Function Junction.
The ministry has invested $12.5 million to install and run the three pilot systems. This pilot program is part of the ministry’s $25-million per-year roadside safety program, as announced in B.C. on the Move.