Mackenzie Delta MLA Frederick Blake is calling for safety improvements to the Dempster Highway close to Fort McPherson.
Blake asked Infrastructure Minister Wally Schumann if the GNWT would install guardrails at kilometre 87 along precarious sections of highway, including a southbound section that leads on to a steep embankment.
“Last summer, we had a group of tourists, a camper, who veered off the road, went down the steep embankment, and almost into the lake,” said Blake in the NWT Legislative Assembly, Thursday. “These people are very lucky that nothing terrible happened to them.”
The GNWT cannot continue to rely on luck alone, he said.
Building a guardrail in the dangerous area could encourage tourists to slow down, he said.
The department is not currently considering a guardrail for the area but GNWT staff will look at the problem area and perform a safety audit, said Wally Schumann, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.
He said the infrastructure department has committed to spend $22.5-million on Highway 8 for reconstruction and rehabilitation between 2019 and 2024.
Blake said he was “feeling the love from the Minister” and asked if Schumann would “let his guard down and just say ‘yes’” to improve safety on the Dempster.
“I know it’s Valentine’s Day,” said Schumann, “but let’s take it a little bit easier here.”
Tourism boom calls for road improvements, says Blake
At the height of the summer tourist season, record numbers of travelers are on the Dempster Highway as a result of the completed Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway.
With even higher visitor numbers anticipated for the summer, Blake is concerned about safety for travelers, many of whom are accustomed to paved roads, he said.
In 2002 the section of the highway at kilometre 87 had a guardrail which fell because of a soft shoulder. The highway has since been widened and there have been several incidents in the area, said Schumann.
The tourist accident in question happened when the motorist parked on the side of the highway, he said.
Guardrails are set up according to industry standards under the Transportation Association of Canada Guide. Schumann will return with a list of areas the department is considering for guardrail installation.