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Trans-Canada: Two-lane danger zones

It's the world's longest national highway. At 7,821 kilometres, it stretches from Victoria, B.C., to St. John's, Nfld., and through every province in between. Constructed over some of the world's most treacherous terrain, it took 20 years and $1 billion to complete. The Trans-Canada Highway fulfilled a dream — to open up new regions of the country, usher in new economic prosperity and make fellow Canadians…just a car ride away.

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Thirty-six years after the Trans-Canada officially opened, many Canadians are complaining about the highway's condition. From patchy repairs, to sharp turns, the highway could use a major facelift.
Residents of New Brunswick and Saskatchewan are the most vocal. CBC Television visits Gull Lake, Sask., where a dangerous two-lane stretch of highway begins. Residents like tow-truck operator Bentley Gibson and grieving mother Joan Kortje want action.

Over the Christmas holidays, Joan Kortje's daughter Jennifer and granddaughter Michelle were killed by an oncoming car on the Trans-Canada. In the last 10 years, 26 deaths and more than 900 accidents have occurred on this 115-kilometre stretch of highway from Gull Lake to the Alberta border. The provincial government has promised to twin the highway -- transforming it from two lanes to four -- but says the project won't be finished for another 15 years. Area residents aren't satisfied.
. Within a month, Joan Kortje and her daughter Michelle started a petition to have the Trans-Canada twinned through Saskatchewan. By February, 10,000 people had signed. By the time they visited the Saskatchewan legislature in March 1998, there were over 30,000 signatures.
. In 1999, western premiers complained that the federal government spends only $13 million per year on highways in the west despite collecting $5 billion in fuel taxes.

. An auditor general report from December 1998 found that Transport Canada doesn't gather information about dangerous sections of the highway when deciding what projects to fund.
. In 1999, the Canadian Automobile Association listed the Trans-Canada Highway's most dangerous sections as Kicking Horse Pass in the Rockies, northern Ontario east of the Manitoba border, and Highway 17 down the Ottawa Valley.

. New Brunswick started complaining about its section of the Trans-Canada as early as 1988. Standards had changed since the highway was built in the 1950s and '60s. Some posted speed limits were too fast, turns too sharp and shoulders too narrow.
. Even worse, a certain two-lane section of the New Brunswick Trans-Canada Highway had earned the nickname "Suicide Alley." As in Saskatchewan, residents asked the provincial and federal governments to twin the highway.
Medium: Television
Program: News Final
Broadcast Date: Jan. 14, 1998
Guest(s): Cpl. Mark Doratti, Bentley Gibson, Joan Kortje, John Schock, George Simmons
Reporter: Jonathan Shanks
Duration: 2:32

Last updated: February 13, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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