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Letter: Highway 6 improvements could prevent more tragic, needless deaths like those of Thompson MLA Danielle Adams

Provincial cabinet ministers should try driving from Winnipeg to Thompson during the winter to experience what northern residents have to endure.
junction of hwy 6 and hwy 39 dec 13 2021
An image from a traffic camera near the junction of Highway 6 and Highway 39 at Ponton on the morning of Dec. 13.

To the Editor:

The tragic, shocking, and needless death by car accident on Highway 6 of MLA Danielle Adams highlights the risk northerners face driving to the south and back every time we do that.

As we all know, Highway 6 is a well-travelled route that services Northern Manitoba. It is also one of the most dangerous highways in the province, especially in winter. I personally know of over 25 people who have been in accidents from rollovers who walked away to other friends who ended up with a broken neck, paralyzed, or died like our MLA. I defy anyone in Winnipeg to make a list that long. 

Dozens of semis travel the route daily. On two occasions, my wife and counted every semi we saw on that 750 kilometre route in daylight hours – 78 and 96. That’s about 10 an hour or one every six minutes between Thompson and Winnipeg. No problem in the summer on good pavement with long daylight hours. Yet, in winter, when you have to pass a semi or stay behind one with billowing snow that can blind you, it is treacherous. I personally have had several close calls. It becomes a white knuckle experience when you are driving to Winnipeg with your family or students for a shopping trip, holidays, or sports teams travel. With shorter daylight hours in winter, it becomes even more dangerous.

Over 20 years ago, northerners supported the idea of double length trailers with the promise it would reduce freight costs and improve economic development. All good for the trucking industry. Yet, the Thompson Chamber of Commerce has lobbied for years for wider shoulders and passing lanes. Is there anywhere else in Canada where they allow double length trailers on single lane highways? From all the taxes the north has generated over decades from hydro sales, mining taxes, liquor sales, income taxes and even VLT revenue, there is no reason not to improve northern roads for economic and pure safety reasons. Whose job is it to speak up for the public and for safety’s sake?

Regardless of which government, when ministers came to visit the North, they fly… quick, convenient. In and out on the same day. I challenge any minister to drive to Thompson and back. Maybe on a visit with your family. Maybe in winter when it gets dark by 5 p.m. Experience for yourself the stress in the car when a semi comes by. 

I believe this year the province is spending $100 million on road and bridge improvements down south along Highway 75 and Highway 1 to improve trade corridors. The province has provided passing lanes and rumble strips on Highway 6 between Winnipeg and Warren. The north still has none of that. Nor public restrooms for hundreds of kilometres, Nor any trash collection at trucker rest stops or highway junctions. That’s another topic. 

With all due respect to southern ministers, it’s time for the province to focus on where the Golden Boy on the legislative building is facing! Northerners deserve that. I would ask every municipality, First Nation and chamber of commerce to send a strong message to make safer highways a priority for the north. We do not need this conversation again when the next traveller is killed. 

I spoke to Danielle at the Christmas parade two weeks ago. She wanted to introduce her young son to downhill skiing this winter at Mystery Mountain. What a terrible and tragic event that should never have happened. 

Sincere condolences to her family. Rest in peace, Danielle.

Volker Beckmann


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