Recently, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure published a helpful blog on Highway Maintenance: Everything you need to know about East Kootenay Highway Winter Maintenance Specifications
Since the award of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Service Area 11 Highway Maintenance contract in April, 2016, Mainroad has re-structured its operations to meet the new service requirements and has made a significant investment in new maintenance yards and a new fleet of trucks exceeding $10 million dollars.
Mainroad invested in the purchase of new and modern snow removal equipment with an increase in material delivery capacity allowing operators to stay longer on the roads to serve the public.
~ 20 tandem axle, 6 tri-axle plows and 6 single axle plows all with wing plows attached supplemented by one additional new tridem wing truck with de-icing spray equipment.
All plow operations are equipped with AVLS (Automated Vehicle Location System) which uses GPS to track the plow locations and ensure efficient deployment of the fleet;
Maintaining greater stockpiles of materials with additional reserves. Through partnership with Salvador Ready Mix Concrete, Mainroad owns its own supply chain management system so has the capability of producing more winter abrasives when required.
Mainroad anticipates the use of 4 million litres of liquid anti-icing chemicals this season;
Mainroad “Snow Desk”: a single point of contact staffed around the clock during severe storm events that has authority to deploy fleet equipment anywhere in the service area as required. This is an internal management function to optimize efficiency during winter operations.
Q. What is the road/highway service area that Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting is responsible for maintaining?
A. The East Kootenay Service Area is 3,673 lane kilometers including 106 bridges (seven of which are bridge-size culverts), 45 retaining walls, 4,100 culverts, four tunnels (one rock tunnel and three pedestrian underpasses), 11,000 signs and 11 rest areas.
Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting LP is responsible for the maintenance of British Columbia’s provincial highways and roads between Brisco (North), Goatfel (West), Alberta (East) and the U.S. border (South). Mainroad is not responsible for plowing within municipal boundaries or on forestry service roads and any snow plow discharge falling on residential driveways is the responsibility of the property owner.
Q. Where are Mainroad’s maintenance yards located?
A. Mainroad is delivering highway maintenance from five yard locations; Cranbrook, Sparwood, Fairmont, Elko and Yahk. Based on our experience, we identified these yard locations as where we can maintain greater stockpiles of materials to serve the local area more efficiently.
Q. How many Mainroad employees are working during winter operations?
A. Our fleet and crews are fully engaged in winter maintenance operations. Over 65 employees plus mechanical support are available to work around the clock to keep our roads clear.
Winter Highway Classifications
B.C. highways are classified A, B, C, D & E and are maintained in that order. Winter highway classifications are based on traffic volumes and function. A’s are the first priority; followed by B’s and C’s.
Class “A” highways are high volume routes with over 5,000 winter average daily traffic counts and may include high volume commuter routes through mountain passes.
Class “B” highways are all other routes with winter average daily traffic volumes between 1,000 and 5,000 vehicles.
Class “C” routes are all school bus routes and commercial routes up to 1,000 winter average daily traffic.
Class “D” routes are rural subdivision routes.
Class “E” routes are irregularly maintained routes
Class “F” are not maintained or not open in the winter.
A great example of an “A” in the East Kootenay area is Highway 3 Cranbrook to the BC/AB Border. A main highway or “B” is Highway 93/95 Cranbrook to Canal Flats. “C” routes are other roads that are neither A nor B, but include important roads like school bus routes. “D” and “E” are the roads generally less travelled.
If a route becomes more popular or sees an increase in commercial traffic, the Ministry may upgrade its classification and increase highway operations on that route, as was done to Highway 3, when the route between Cranbrook to Fernie changed to an “A”. It’s all about safety. Changes like this mean an increase in the maintenance commitment, resulting in more frequent patrols and quicker response times, and more plowing, snow removal, and salt and winter abrasive applications, always a good thing when we see winter take hold.
Highway patrol frequencies are based on highway classifications. Patrol vehicles must be equipped to remove snow and provide traction restoration during a weather event or prior to occurring, either forecasted or anticipated slippery or freeze-thaw situations.
Q. How does Mainroad monitor weather and highways conditions?
A. As the weather can change rapidly in the East Kootenays during winter, Mainroad is constantly monitoring weather and highway conditions. To determine how best to protect motorists, we oversee weather in two ways:
Road Weather Information Stations (RWIS): 7 East Kootenay Service Area roadside stations measure site-specific highway data such as pavement surface temperature and condition, precipitation, snow depth, air temperature, humidity, and wind.
Road Patrols: 24 hours per day, 7 days per week our operators are on the road observing current conditions and making the calls as to what maintenance is required.
Q. Who ensures the woQ. What materials does Mainroad use for winter road maintenance and when are these materials applied?
A. Mainroad uses three materials for winter road maintenance: winter abrasive, anti-ice liquids and salt. The use of a specific material is determined by the forecast and actual weather conditions and in accordance with the standard set by the Ministry.
Winter Abrasives: the size of aggregate used is 9.5mm, a graded material as specified by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Winter abrasives improve traction.
Anti-icing Liquids: Anti-icing liquids are used as a preventative material prior to snowfall. Typically, these materials are applied prior to a forecasted winter event and dry on the highway surface to provide early on snow melting capabilities.
Salt: Salt is a staple of our winter maintenance routine. Sometimes salt is used in a liquid, sometimes in a solid. It helps to melt the ice, and then the slush can be plowed away. There’s a lot of science behind it, but there’s a real art to using salt as well. Using a fast-acting salt can work well when there isn’t much snow, for example. But if the snow keeps coming, the fast- acting option will create a lot of water, which will dilute the salt and make it less effective.
Salts are only effective in certain temperatures. If temperatures fall below -5C, salt becomes a lot more ineffective. Also, if the ice melts and then the temperature suddenly dips, it can actually make things worse, because that slush and melted water is just going to freeze again.
During a snow event, restoring traction will be completed by either applying winter abrasives on compact sections or by applying winter chemicals to compact sections to melt snow and ice when pavement temperatures are above -9C.
Q. What is ice blading?
A. Ice blading is another method that’s frequently used. That’s when the plow or grader goes over the ice with a large, serrated blade and cuts grooves directly into the ice. These grooves help hold the winter abrasive to help increase traction. It’s the best way to ensure safe driving when the road is covered in compact snow and ice. When temperatures permit, Mainroad will actively remove compact snow with salt to break up the ice and plow and clear the roads.
Q. What is Mainroad doing to respond to changing conditions during a storm event?
A. Weather can change rapidly in the East Kootenays during winter which is why Mainroad is constantly monitoring weather and highway conditions.
During a storm event, Mainroad crews will be working to clear the highway surfaces as quickly as possible. When temperatures permit, we will commence anti-icing operations with the goal of getting the compact snow off service area highways and roads. On primary routes, we will aim to have bare and black conditions from the completion of the weather event as quickly as possible however challenging weather will not always permit us to have bare and black conditions on secondary routes.
During every storm event, Mainroad will provide the Ministry and Media with regular updates.
Q. Where can I direct concerns about road conditions to Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting?
A. We encourage motorists and residents to report all road condition concerns by phone to our 24-hour call centre number. Please call toll free 1-800-665-4929. Please report accidents, unsafe road conditions and road kill to Mainroad’s 24-hour hotline.