Motorists question lengthy closure of Cobequid Pass

Colin MacLean
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At least one motor vehicle accident contributed to the closure of the Cobequid Pass on Wednesday night. Poor road conditions continued to cause accidents and headaches for some motorists, even after the pass was opened Thursday morning. Colin MacLean - Transcontinental Media
COBEQUID PASS - Questions abound today regarding the decision to close the Cobequid Pass during the first snowstorm of the season Wednesday night. More than 1,500 vehicles were stranded on the mountain pass because of the closure, meaning motorists spent the cold long hours of the night wondering why they had received no warning of the closure and hoping the kilometre-long lines would start to move. The snow started around 3 p.m., with a car colliding with a transport truck less than an hour later in the westbound lanes near the top of the Cobequid Mountains.

At least one motor vehicle accident contributed to the closure of the Cobequid Pass on Wednesday night. Poor road conditions continued to cause accidents and headaches for some motorists, even after the pass was opened Thursday morning. Colin MacLean - Transcontinental Media
COBEQUID PASS - Questions abound today regarding the decision to close the Cobequid Pass during the first snowstorm of the season Wednesday night.

More than 1,500 vehicles were stranded on the mountain pass because of the closure, meaning motorists spent the cold long hours of the night wondering why they had received no warning of the closure and hoping the kilometre-long lines would start to move.

The snow started around 3 p.m., with a car colliding with a transport truck less than an hour later in the westbound lanes near the top of the Cobequid Mountains.

'Once the tractor-trailer got stuck on the hill, then everyone got stuck,' RCMP Cpl. Darren Galley said from Amherst. 'I'm sure there was a lot of people frustrated.'

The decision was made by 4:30 p.m. to close the westbound lanes west of the tollgate.

Within an hour, the weather deteriorated, darkness fell over the Cobequid Pass and the eastbound lanes were also closed as they became icy under about 10 centimetres of heavy, wet snow.

'The plows couldn't get through because of the traffic blocking the lanes,' Galley said. 'We all got blindsided by the storm.'

Spending the night in the cab of his truck, Moncton trucker Ray Drisdelle said he had nothing to do but watch the snow fly and wait.

"We didn't see anybody, not a plow, not a cop car, nothing," he said, adding he had plenty of fuel and heat to get through the night.

Officials have not reported any injuries because of the closure, however, one ambulance was escorted from the scene by the RCMP.

Fellow trucker Randy Chapman of New Glasgow had a similar night waiting in the lines. He passed the time by sleeping and listening to the radio for updates. He had never seen anything like it before in his 25 years of trucking.

"I guess there isn't much you can do about it, everybody had to deal with it," he said, "but there's no reason it should have been closed that long."

Transportation Minister Murray Scott apologized to all the motorists that became stranded in the ordeal and has called for a meeting with senior government officials and police to review what happened. A date has yet to set for the meeting that will look at all the things leading up to the closure, as well as what happened while closed.

Wayne Crossan, general manager for the Cobequid Pass Toll Plaza, was himself stranded at the toll office while trying to deal with the situation. In his ten years with the pass he's never seen a situation like the one that unfolded Wednesday night.

"I've seen it (closed) for periods of time, sometimes several hours, but nothing like this."

Crossan also would like to know why it took so long to get the pass opened to traffic, but is hopeful the upcoming meeting will produce results.

"Hopefully we can get some answers and first I think it's important to determine what happened and what events occurred that we can look to correct in the future," he said. - With files from The Canadian Press

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: Cobequid Mountains, Amherst, Moncton New Glasgow

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