British Columbia·CBC Investigates

Drivers on the hook for $1.25M repair of overpass hit by truck

The province is sending the bill to ICBC, with the auto insurer saying it will not be seeking restitution from the driver or the trucking company — and that's angered many drivers, residents and businesses in the area.

Province sending bill to ICBC after truck with over-height load crashed into Surrey overpass on Hwy 99

The 152nd Street overpass in Surrey was closed for more than three months after a truck slammed into it. (Gary Hanney/CBC)

South Surrey residents say it sounded like a sonic boom when a large truck with a trailer carrying an over-height car crusher smashed into the 152nd Street overpass of Highway 99 on Dec. 4, 2017.

A hail of concrete rained down, closing parts of the roads above and below for more than three months.

Now the bill for repairs is in and it's steep: $1.25 million, according to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure  — and if you drive a vehicle in B.C., you'll be helping to pay it.

The province says the bill for repairing the overpass, which fully re-opened in mid-March 2018, has been sent to ICBC.

The auto insurer told CBC News it will not be seeking restitution at this time from the driver — whose vehicle was found to be "non-compliant" by Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) — or the trucking company.

There may, however, be some question of liability.

CBC news has learned that the driver of the truck, Paul Murray, is suing the province, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the person who said the car crusher was ready for transport.

The lawsuit also states the driver is currently disabled from the accident and seeks general and special damages. It was filed in May 2018.

ICBC is the insurer of the driver and would have to pay, if he's at fault.

'It's not fair at all'

The news the public insurer may have to pay is angering many drivers, residents and businesses in the area who were affected by the crash.

Tony Elvin comes to the area often for groceries and shopping. He said he often found himself caught in the traffic nightmare following the crash and the ensuing months of construction. 

"It's not fair at all. It should be the trucking company that's paying for that," Elvin said.

Another Surrey resident, Tod Catchpole, says he's frustrated the money is going to come from the pockets of B.C. drivers.

He says trucks should know their load and the drivers should be held accountable.​

This comes as ICBC costs continue to climb and drivers are paying higher rates.

Impact on business still being felt

Following the crash, traffic on 152nd Street had to be significantly re-routed for several weeks and vehicles could only go one way.

Merchants in the area say it's had a devastating effect on their bottom line. 

Vicki McDowell at 7 Seas Fish Market, located just south of the overpass, says business has still not recovered.

"We're still feeling the aftermath of it. We lost a lot of our customers. A lot of people came in after the fact saying we're really sorry but it was just too difficult to come in … It was just a traffic jam here, people turning around in here," McDowell said.

Driver no longer on the road

The ministry says the driver of the truck was fined $115 by CVSE for not conforming with the required load dimensions to be on the highway.

The driver is no longer on the road, the ministry says.

"CVSE investigated the carrier as a result of the incident, found it to be non-compliant and recommended cancellation.  Upon receiving the report and recommendation, the carrier decided to voluntarily surrender their certificate to operate as of Dec. 20, 2017."

The RCMP says the driver also received a ticket for driving without due care and attention, with a fine of $368 and six penalty points on his licence.

Calls to the trucking firm the driver was working for have not been returned.

With files from Joan Marshall