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Full speed ahead on Highway 1 through Chilliwack

The speed limit on Highway 1 between Whatcom Road in Abbotsford through Chilliwack to Hope is now 110 km/h. - Greg Laychak
The speed limit on Highway 1 between Whatcom Road in Abbotsford through Chilliwack to Hope is now 110 km/h.
— image credit: Greg Laychak

Whether increasing speed limits on B.C. highways is a recipe for disaster, long overdue or completely unnoticeable, depends on who you ask.

Chilliwack residents, like most British Columbians, seem deeply divided on the issue.

As part of a host of changes unveiled on July 2 by Transportation Minister Todd Stone, the speed limit on the stretch of Highway 1 through Chilliwack was increased to 110 kilometres per hour.

The move will “bring the speed limit in line with actual travel speeds,” Stone said.

The decision came out of months of public consultation and engineering reviews, according to the government.

But the RCMP and the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police argue that speed contributes to injuries and fatalities.

B.C. truckers don’t like it either, and most won’t be increasing their speed to follow the new rates as high as 120 km/h on the Coquihalla.

Natural Resources Canada estimates that a heavy commercial vehicle travelling at 120 km/h can consume up to 39 per cent more fuel than one travelling at 90 km/h.

Then there is the increase in fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Local truck driver John Greenwood said he won’t increase the speed he travels because his vehicle is limited by computer control to 105 km/h and he is satellite tracked.

Greenwood also thinks it’s a scam to increase tax revenue.

“With increased speed, taxpayers drive faster, burn more gas and government collect revenue on the tax on gas tax so income for the government goes up,” he said. “The taxpayers don’t know they’re being tricked.”

As for general highway users, the Times asked for comments and within three hours received 70 comments.

“I really do not see that much of a change,” said Tim Kilbrai. “Most people were driving between 110 and 120 anyway so now people will be at or closer to the speed limit. I drive the stretch between Chilliwack and Whatcom four times since the change and saw no difference at all with the drivers or the speed they were doing.”

Cassandra Whitney said she doesn’t agree with the increase.

“People drove way too fast before the increase and now that it’s increased it’s gotten even worse. There’s a reason for so many accident between Abbotsford and Hope on Sunday,” she said.

Cathy Oss said while working at a hospital “30 or so years ago,” she saw a corresponding decrease in bad accidents when speed limits were lowered.

Others say slow drivers are the problem.

“I find that the only more dangerous part is those drivers who still insist on driving 90 km/h,” Ben Maljaars said. “It used to be just annoying but now it’s actually dangerous because they are going a full 20 km/h below the flow of traffic.”

“It’s about time the speed limit was increased,” Angela Mestrovic agreed. “It’s the slow drivers that are dangerous!”

Nicole Linza said she is a daily commuter from Chilliwack to Richmond and has noticed no changes in driving behaviour, so far, and that most drivers already drove at approximately 120 km/h.

“If anything I’ve actually seen more commuters sticking around the 110 mark in this past week,” she said.

Others suggested the increase was fine, but the highway should be six lanes all the way to Hope.

And while the speed increase has gotten all the press, other changes announced by Stone have been overshadowed, according to Terrence Brown.

“I think the speed increase overshadows the greater enhancements: ticketing ‘coasters’ in the fast lane, and those going dangerously under the speed limit,” he said.

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