(Photo courtesy of Alberta Transportation)

Rick Nicholls To Host ‘Build The Barrier’ Event In Chatham

A local MPP is organizing an event in Chatham that will give residents a platform to discuss Hwy. 401 safety concerns and the need for a median barrier.

Chatham-Kent-Essex MPP Rick Nicholls will be hosting a Build the Barrier Town Hall on Thursday, November 30 at 7pm at the Active Lifestyle Centre, 20 Merritt Ave. in Chatham.

Alysson Storey, founder of the 401 safety advocacy group Build the Barrier, will be attending the event. Build the Barrier is advocating for increased safety measures on Hwy. 401, including the installation of concrete median barriers and the expansion to three lanes on the stretch of road between Tilbury and London, “otherwise known as “Carnage Alley.”

Storey has been pushing for a median barrier ever since her family friends Sarah and Freya Payne were killed in a Hwy. 401 crossover crash on August 29, 2017. She invites any residents would like an opportunity to share and brainstorm some ideas with experts in the field.

“Law enforcement, health care professionals, engineers — that kind of thing — will be joining us to answer any questions we have, because they’re the experts and they know how these sort of decisions are made. We’re hoping to get a really great turnout to learn more about this issue and decide on some next steps,” says Storey.

According to Storey, there have been a total of five fatalities and ten serious hospitalizations caused by crashes on Hwy. 401 between Tilbury and London in the last six months. She says it is unfortunate that very little has been done so far.

“$100-million was just announced to improve 401 safety in Cambridge when we’ve been basically begging for it here in Chatham-Kent for about 20 years now to fix this dangerous stretch of road. We’re still getting ignored, so we’re using this town hall event to raise some awareness,” says Storey.

Storey says she wonders if the Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) lack of response to the highway safety issues in Chatham-Kent is an election tactic.

“I hate to say it, but I think it’s partially political. I think there’s an election coming up and some of the ridings that are getting money are ridings with liberal ministers in them. It’s really disappointing, because this shouldn’t be a political issue, this should be a public safety issue. People are dying on our roads in Chatham-Kent and Elgin County. It’s really ridiculous that they say they may not have the money to do something, then they announce $100-million two hours down the road, specifically for 401 safety,” explains Storey.

In early October, the MTO announced that a high tension cable barrier will be installed through Chatham-Kent next year. Then just a few weeks later, officials backtracked on the statement and said that all options, including a concrete barrier, are still on the table.

On Wednesday, the MTO confirmed to BlackburnNews.com that “the ministry is currently reviewing options and is committed to keeping all interested parties informed about this process as we move forward.”

Storey says she is happy the MTO is still looking at concrete barriers as an option.

“That’s the only type of barrier that’s effective with larger vehicles like transport trucks. Anyone who drives our section of the road here knows it’s a very busy area with transports. It not only protects other drivers when the truck is out of control, but it also protects the truck drivers themselves. We want something that is effective and safe for all the vehicles on the road and the cable barrier is not that option,” says Storey.

Storey says it is so important to rally support from the community.

“Everyday citizens like you and me can have a voice. That’s the most important message that we’re trying to send with this issue. You can email Minister Steven Del Duca or you can tweet him on twitter. By calling his office or emailing him, everyone of us can make a difference and tell him that we need that barrier in Chatham-Kent,” says Storey.

Storey says information and updates can be found on the Build the Barrier Facebook page, as well as the email buildthebarrier@gmail.com.