By Laura Keil
Anyone who’s ventured onto Valemount’s frontage road recently, especially during the evening, will not be surprised by this week’s story on parking woes.
But what may be surprising are the very real pressures facing truckers with regards to pit stops, and the dismal lack of amenities for them outside a narrow band of frontage road.
The Village of Valemount is right that more highway development would help diffuse the gridlock along Karas Drive and Swift Creek Road (the frontage roads on the east side of the highway). But that fix is likely a long way off. In the meantime we have a problem, one that won’t be fixed satisfactorily with traffic tickets or no parking signs, because the underlying causes will remain: not enough room to park and pressures for drivers to stop (for washrooms, coffees, and/or mandatory breaks).
I agree that many trucks park in an unsafe and illegal way. But pushing them off the frontage road will only displace the problem elsewhere. Especially in the winter, there simply aren’t enough places for big rigs to park in a safe way in proximity to bathrooms and fuel.
I believe the Village and Ministry should consider putting money and resources into opening up more parking, either by widening existing roads, or purchasing land for that purpose.
It’s easy to be dismissive of drivers who appear to be just “passing through.” But living where we do, our communities rely on their industry. Truckers are some of the unsung heroes of our time. We give thanks to farmers for the food we buy in the store, but what about the truck drivers who make perilous journeys on icy mountain roads to deliver that food?
Together with railways, the trucking industry is a linchpin in Canada’s economy. And for Valemount, it is a significant boost to frontage road businesses. I doubt any gas station would want business turned away.
It’s time we take a broader look at this problem, and come up with some lasting solutions.