Al Sander

Flash freeze a challenge for road maintenance: Mainroad

On Friday, Mainroad East Kootenay responded to concerns and complaints from the public about the conditions of highways over the past week.

Winter road conditions this week have been challenging for motorists, as a thick layer of ice has stuck around on most of the area’s highways.

It’s also been a source of frustration for those who feel the contractor in charge of highway maintenance is not doing enough to ensure safe roads.

On Friday, Mainroad East Kootenay responded to concerns and complaints from the public about the conditions of highways over the past week.

Al Sander, general manager for Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting, said they take the concerns raised by the public seriously.

“We were aware of the impending weather before it came last week,” Sander said. “We were fully prepared. All of our equipment had been deployed.”

Sander said the service levels haven’t changed and there is the same amount of resources as there were in past years.

“It’s been a challenging week for weather conditions in many parts of the province,” Sander said.

He said crews have utilized close to twice the amount of abrasive product compared to normal, and last weekend they used over 500 truckloads of sand and 50-60 truckloads of salt.

“When you get a flash freeze like we had, you just can’t go out with a grader and peel it off; you just can’t go out with a plow truck and burn it off with salt,” he said. “Once you get past -6 (degrees) salt is a useless material; sand won’t stick because it’s too slippery. It’s a really difficult situation.”

The East Kootanay fleet is made up of 43 plow trucks and chemical application trucks and six graders, as well as mechanics to keep those vehicles going. They also have contractors they bring in if they need more graders.

He said weather patterns are changing as well.

“I talked to guys that have been here for a long time and worked in the business. They’ve never seen Novembers like the last two — the rain and the flash freezes with it. I’m not sure if this is an anomaly or a change in the weather pattern.”

He said most of the operators have a lot of experience and these type of weather patterns are a real challenge.

Sander said the process of letting the drivers know what they need to do is done on a shop-by-shop basis.

“There are road managers that review the process,” he said. “We’re also under a strict audit process under the Ministry. There are levels of what we’re supposed to do and how often we have to patrol and how much snow there has to be before we start plowing. Those things are all within the contract.”

He said one of the main differences between the roads here and in Alberta is the contracts.

“There’s an inherent difference on expectations and specifications on contracts in the two provinces,” he said.

Sander said the contracts here were decided eight years ago.

“They are in the process of working on the next contract and what that looks like when that comes up, we’ll see,” he said. “The highway maintenance contracts are always a tight bid. They always have been, they always will be. Doesn’t matter if you’re in B.C. or Alberta. It’s a very competitive bidding process.”

The roads in B.C. are classified into Class A, B, C and down.

Class A has a four hour rotation for patrols, Class B an eight hour rotation and Class C an 18 hour rotation. Class A has an allowance of up to four centimetres of snow accumulation before it needs to be plowed, while Class C has an allowance of up to 10 cm.

If the temperatures are colder than -6 degrees the crews continue to sand — and scrape if possible — to make the roads as safe as they can, he said.

He said over the past week the Ministry has been doing audits on Mainroad’s work in this region. The Ministry has two inspectors that patrol the roads in the East Kootenay.

“We were in spec,” Sander said. “We were within standard with what the contract negotiations are. I know that doesn’t satisfy everybody, but that’s what we do by in the context of the contract and what their expectations are.”

Sander said if the public wants the standard to change, it will have to lobby the government to change it.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Leather Apron Revival will live stream on October 24, 2020 through Studio 64 concert series. FaceBook image
Live-streamed concerts at Studio 64 continue

Blues Rock with a Molten Metal Motif

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry to the U.S., still placed in Canadian quarantine

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Nicole Cherlet for the BC NDP, Samson Boyer for the BC Greens and Doug Clovechok for the BC Liberals will be your choices on the ballot in the upcoming provincial election. (Submitted/Revelstoke Review)
Columbia River – Revelstoke candidates adapt to pandemic

COVID-19 protocols make for unique campaign

Kimberley Minor Hockey players scrimmage with the Dynamiters last year. KMH file
Kimberley and Cranbrook Minor Hockey relationship grows the game for local players

Players can now play to their skill level regardless of city of origin

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Fort St. John councillor Trevor Bolin (B.C. Conservative Party)
BC Conservatives leader fights back after BC Liberals leak 2018 workplace harassment case

Sexual harassment case was connected to employee being terminated, WorkSafeBC found

Most Read