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Speed limits going up around B.C.

he B.C. government is raising speed limits around southern B.C., including a new 120 km/h limit on three remote stretches of divided four-lane highway.

The new maximum applies to the Coquihalla Highway from Hope to Kamloops, the Okanagan Connector (Highway 97C) from Aspen Grove to Peachland and Highway 19 from Parksville to Campbell River. The Coquihalla sections get new 120 km/h signs this week, and more changes will roll out this summer as sign crews put up new limits.

In all, 35 sections of rural provincial highway totalling 1,300 are getting higher speed limits. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said limits are being raised where traffic studies show the vast majority of traffic is already going faster than the posted limit.

A pilot project will test variable speed limits depending on volume and weather conditions. Digital signs that can display different limits will be tested on sections of the Trans-Canada, Coquihalla and Sea-to-Sky highways.

The Sea-to-Sky Highway gets an increase from 80 to 90 km/h from Horseshoe Bay to Squamish. Other increases are 80 to 100 km/h on Highway 3 from Manning Park West to Allison Pass, 90 to 100 km/h from Revelstoke to Golden and 100 to 110 km/h on Highway 97C from Merritt to Aspen Grove.

In northern B.C., 52% of people taking part in public consultation did not support speed limit increases, and that region will not see changes. All other regions had support, the highest in the Lower Mainland at 81%.

RCMP opposed increasing speed limits on rural highways. ICBC representatives also expressed safety concerns, and will monitor areas with higher limits to see if the severity of crashes increases.

Ministry statistics show the number of serious crashes on provincial highways has decreased 28% since 2003, from a combination of improved vehicle technology, driver education and enforcement.

The ministry accepted recommendations from RCMP representatives to improve signs that encourage slower traffic to move to right lanes, and to clarify winter tire rules. The ministry is changing regulations to make tires with an “M&S” (mud and snow) symbol as well as those with a “mountain snowflake” (winter) symbol acceptable for roads requiring winter tires.

New designs for wildlife warning signs, including lighted signs for high incident areas, are being installed.

An updated sign reminding drivers to “Keep Right, Let Others Pass” is being installed, after people around the province expressed frustration about the slow vehicles in passing lanes.

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