Calgary·PUBLIC SPACE

Speed limit through Banff National Park should be raised to 110km/h

Bob Kooyman gives his argument for why the speed limit through Banff National Park should be raised to 110 km/h.

Highway upgrades and wildlife crossings justify the increase, argues Bob Kooyman

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This week Bob Kooyman gives his argument for why the speed limit through Banff National Park should be raised to 110 km/h.

Back in late May, just after the long weekend, I heard an interview on CBC Radio with a Banff RCMP officer about the number of speeders they had encountered on the Banff to Lake Louise highway.  

Bob Kooyman says he often wonders why the speed limit is 90 km/h in Banff National Park. (Mike Symington/CBC)

The sergeant was careful to avoid any comments on the appropriateness of the 90 km/h speed limit and stuck closely to the script of enforcing the law as mandated.

I had driven through this stretch of the TransCanada highway a few days earlier and my sympathies were with both the motorists and the RCMP charged with administering the speed limit while feeling frustration with whoever mandated such a low speed.

Mountain madness 

In mid-July, I again drove this road both ways on a business trip to Vancouver Island.  

On the trip outbound, there was little traffic and I was able to drive this stretch at a reasonable speed. On the return trip from Vancouver, I was forced to follow in a pack of cars blocked behind a RCMP cruiser driving at 90 km/h in the left-hand lane.  

He made a great mobile road block and collected a significant pack of vehicles. When he finally turned off near Highway 1A, the pack sped up and the traffic jam disintegrated.

TransCanada's transformation

As I droned along in the pack of frustrated drivers, I took the time to look around and examine my situation.  

I remember the old Banff to Lake Louise highway. It was a marvel of 1950s highway engineering and a 90 km/h speed limit was certainly appropriate. The road was a two-lane blacktop with limited shoulders, trees close to the road, no wildlife control and bears in the ditches.

But, by the 1990s, the highway's age was showing. Traffic volumes had increased to the point where passing was almost impossible, the surface was rough and accidents — sometimes fatal — caused huge traffic jams, particularly on weekends.  

The public outcry finally caused the politicians to loosen the purse strings and a complete rebuild of this section of the highway was ordered.

New road a marvel of highway engineering  

The TransCanada from Banff to Lake Louise is a now divided highway, two lanes each way, with a wide median separating the lanes. It is smooth and newly paved with wide shoulders.

There is good visibility out to the tree line and the sides of the road feature high animal fences with stunning animal overpasses and less noticeable underpasses. In other words, this is a super highway.   

It has taken years to build and cost tens of millions of dollars but it is well worth the effort and money spent on this busy piece of road.  It is one of the best portions of road in the entire journey from Vancouver to Calgary.

So why is the speed limit only 90 km/h?  

Is the speed limit low for animal protection? I hope not because millions of dollars were spent on fences and animal overpasses.  

My personal experience and media accounts would suggest that these measures are working as planned. Is it because we are in a national park? Not really because we are in a transportation corridor almost completely isolated from the park and nature.

Comparable roads carry speed limits of 110 to 120 km/h and the traffic attempts to travel at this speed. The current speed limit probably contributes to more problems than it avoids because it mixes people trying to get to their destination with slower vehicles.  

Let's raise the speed limit on this super highway and get traffic flowing on this busy traffic corridor.

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About the Author

Bob Kooyman is currently an unemployed oilfield engineer who has lived in Calgary for over 35 years.

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