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A scorched patch of ground where a bus carrying seniors ended up after colliding with a transport truck and burning is seen on the edge of the Trans-Canada Highway where it intersects with Hwy 5, west of Winnipeg near Carberry, Man., on June 16, 2023.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Premier Wab Kinew says Manitoba will spend at least $12-million to improve the safety of an intersection on the province’s stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway where 17 people were killed and eight others were injured in a crash last June.

In a 179-page report released Monday, nearly seven months after the deadly collision between a semi-trailer and a minibus carrying a group of seniors, Manitoba’s transportation and infrastructure officials outlined three possible solutions to improving the problematic intersection: a roundabout, a wider median for two-stage crossings, and a controlled setup for drivers to make a U-turn.

“This was a very difficult moment in our province’s history,” Mr. Kinew said at a news conference in Dauphin, a small city about 315 kilometres from Winnipeg, where most of the people affected by the crash lived. Earlier in the day, he met with the families of the victims and survivors there. The government is working with them to build a memorial at the crash site.

“We are going to do the safest thing possible here,” Mr. Kinew added, indicating that the decisions made for this intersection will become “a template” for future changes made to others like it on Manitoba’s highways.

Lisa Naylor, Manitoba’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said the province will require six to nine months to create initial designs, after which community consultations will take place. That means the project is not expected to be completed until at least the fall of 2026.

Monday’s report was prepared by WSP Global Inc., a Montreal-based consulting firm, which was tasked with identifying performance issues and suggesting enhancements for the intersection. But while the review was prompted by the June 15, 2023, crash, WSP “did not examine the details” of that incident, citing a continuing RCMP investigation.

Tara Seel, a spokesperson for the Manitoba RCMP, said the Mounties are “not involved” in the province’s report. RCMP officers have not yet spoken to the driver of the minibus, she added in a statement, without elaborating further, citing health privacy laws.

Police had said earlier that, according to dashcam footage, the minibus was southbound on Highway 5 and crossing Highway 1, which is part of the Trans-Canada system, when it went into the path of the eastbound semi-truck, causing the crash near the small town of Carberry. The semi-truck is believed to have had the right of way.

WSP conducted several studies of the intersection last summer, collecting data and video footage. The firm also factored in provincial collision data from 2012 to 2021, noting that statistics from 2012 and 2013 were incomplete because of Manitoba’s reporting procedures at the time. NDP Leader Greg Selinger was premier then.

“For whatever reason, data wasn’t always collected across the highways in the province until this tragedy took place,” Mr. Kinew said. “That data is now being collected. And we’re identifying other intersections, other stretches of the highway, where there are challenges around safety.”

Apart from the province’s top three picks, the lengthy report also listed a variety of other options to improve the intersection. One of them included the long-term goal of a grade-separated interchange, which would incorporate an overpass or an underpass.

Mr. Kinew said such an interchange would likely cost the province more than $100-million and wouldn’t be complete for at least 20 to 25 years.

Another option that had been suggested earlier by Carberry Mayor Ray Muirhead was to install traffic signals at the intersection. But an analysis by the province found that isn’t the safest bet, Ms. Naylor said.

“We need to look at safety through the lens of how people actually behave, not just what the rules are on the road,” she told reporters on Monday.

Josh Guenter, the Manitoba Progressive Conservative party’s critic for transportation and infrastructure, welcomed the report, calling it a step in the right direction. Mr. Guenter and his colleagues initiated reviews and implemented some safety measures after the crash, when the PCs were the governing party. Those changes included new rumble strips, speed-limit signs and refreshed pavement markings.

“We encourage Manitobans to get involved in the upcoming consultations,” he said in a statement.

At least 29 other collisions were seen at the intersection between 2012 and 2021, the report noted. A month after the crash in June, another collision between a pickup truck and SUV caused both vehicles to strike a third, injuring three people.

On the Prairies, such tricky highway intersections are common. In 2018, 16 people died and 13 others were injured in Saskatchewan after a transport truck drove through a stop sign and into the path of a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team. The driver of the truck, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

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