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Calls to twin Trans-Canada Highway between Manitoba and Ontario grow

Family members of a father and son from northwestern Ontario killed in a collision on Highway 1 near Falcon Lake, Man. are calling for improvements to make the section of road safer.

A roadside memorial along the busy and undivided section of the Trans-Canada marks the spot where the tragedy struck more than three years ago.

Mark Lugli, 54, and his son Jacob, 17, were heading west from their home in Dryden, Ont. on the morning of Jul. 21, 2019, to a golf tournament in Selkirk, Man. when they were killed in a horrific collision that has their family and many others calling for change.

Peter Lugli, Mark’s brother and Jacob’s uncle, just sent an open letter on the issue to Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson.

“Given the increase in traffic along that stretch of road over the years, Manitoba should frankly mimic what Ontario’s been doing which is committing to twinning that part of the road,” Peter said in an interview from his home in Seattle.

He said the family learned the driver of an eastbound vehicle was trying to make a left turn at Barren Lake Road.

According to initial reports from RCMP, to avoid a crash, the driver of an eastbound semi-truck behind it crossed into the westbound lane, into oncoming traffic.

“The net effect of all of that was a head-on collision with Mark and Jacob and we were told that they’d perished instantly,” Peter said.

A small portion of the Trans-Canada has since been slated to be twinned between the Ontario boundary and Kenora, Ont. since the collision occurred.

“The day that happened even my neighbour said she felt her whole house shake,” said Joan Dion, who lives with her husband John in their cottage at Barren Lake.

They often have to make the difficult left turn onto the road in the same spot Mark and Jacob were killed and would also like Manitoba to twin the 17 kilometres of single-lane highway on its side of the border.

“They should have at least signs here, ‘local cottagers turning’ or something so people know,” John said. “Because people don’t know, especially if it’s their first time they come here, that you make a turn here.”

A provincial spokesperson said while Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure will consider improvements along the highway, they said the stretch of road where the collision occurred has significant topographical challenges because it’s located on the crest of a hill between two lakes.

Doyle Piwniuk, Manitoba’s Transportation and Infrastructure Minister, said the province is “in the early stages” of exploring how the road could be twinned.

“Our department is looking at the possibility of what we need to do next and looking at possible design,” Piwniuk said Monday at an unrelated road announcement. “It’s a lot of work there. There’s going to be a lot of, when it comes to rocks, there’s a lot of topography we have to deal with.”

People who travel it regularly said improvements are long overdue.

“I think it serves us all as Canadians that it be twinned, for reasons of safety,” said Bonny Skene, a resident of Dryden, Ont. who added her name to Lugli’s letter on behalf of concerned Manitoba-bound motorists from northwestern Ontario. “I’m encouraged by the interest demonstrated by the Infrastructure Minister. I hope that steps will be taken to look at it in a timely way.”

Mark was a school principal in Dryden, Jacob a promising young golfer. Both enjoyed the outdoors. Both are now greatly missed.

“It gives us cold comfort to think that we’ll think about doing it in the future,” Peter said.

For family members the road needs safety improvements sooner rather than later to prevent another tragedy.

The driver of the semi in the collision is set to appear in a Winnipeg court Aug. 24 on two counts of careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act.

Manitoba Prosecution Services said the matter is scheduled for sentencing but no pleas have been entered yet. Top Stories

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