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More deaths predicted along Hwy 401's Carnage Alley if concrete barriers delayed

Alysson Storey thought she was getting somewhere when former provincial Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek promised to expedite construction of concrete barriers on Highway 401 between London and Chatham.

The grassroots group Build the Barrier is worried because construction won't begin until late next year

A section of Hwy 401 between London and Chatham-Kent is notorious for serious and fatal collisions. (Ontario Provincial Police)

Alysson Storey thought she was getting somewhere when former provincial Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek promised to expedite construction of concrete barriers on Highway 401 between London and Chatham. Now she's frustrated and disappointed after learning construction isn't slated to begin until late 2020.

"It literally means that more people will die," said Storey, founder of the grassroots organization Build the Barrier. 

Storey started advocating for concrete barriers in 2017 after the death of her friend, Sarah Payne, and her 5-year-old daughter, Freya Payne. They were killed Aug. 29, 2017, on Hwy. 401 near Dutton, west of London, by an east-bound pick-up truck that crossed the centre line and crashed into their westbound van. 

Their deaths continue to spur Storey to demand better safety measures to prevent similar tragedies. 

Sarah Payne, 42, and her daughter, Freya Payne, 5, were killed in a crash on Hwy. 401 in Aug. 2017 near Dutton. (Harris Funeral Home)

"There have been at least 25 incidents in Carnage Alley this year, including three deaths," she said. "I know because I track them."

In the last provincial cabinet shuffle, Yurek was moved to the Ministry of Environment and Caroline Mulroney was named the new Minister of Transportation. Storey said she has yet to reach the new minister but she is determined to keep fighting. 

"Just because ministers have changed again does not mean the situation has. People are still dying in Carnage Alley," she said. "When she (Mulroney) came to Chatham during her leadership campaign I met her and shared the Build the Barrier story with her. I'm hopeful she will work as hard to improve this dangerous highway as her predecessors."

Learning about the delay in construction has not deterred Storey's determination to fight for improved highway safety in honour of her friend.

"This season reminds us so much of their beautiful personalities and it's frustrating to no end to think that another family could experience that this summer," she said. "But, this just galvanizes us even stronger. This is done in their memory and in the memory of many people who have lost their lives."

CBC News reached out to the Ministry of Transportation for comment. There had been no response at the time of publication. 

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