The past few weeks have been very challenging for highway maintenance operations throughout the Kootenays. Two occasions of warm weather, followed by rain, snow, and rapidly dropping temperatures left ice buildup on the travelled lanes. Though not uncommon for the area, more severe conditions have been seen over the past two years than in previous years.
Mainroad crews were aware of the impending weather situation well in advance, they understood what the challenges would be, and were fully prepared. However, regardless of all the effort put into proactively dealing with the situation by pre-salting, ice built up on the road surface due to the severe climatic conditions.
In order to enhance our winter operations even further this year, the Mainroad operation implemented the following:
· Reorganized our Sparwood crews to concentrate their efforts on Highway 43 to the Teck Mine while Fernie crews focus on the highway to the Alberta border;
· Changed our shift patterns to provide better coverage 24/7;
· Installed GPS systems into all plow trucks and automated vehicle locators so that we can monitor progress and performance;
· Are trialing a salt brine calcium mix which we have had great success in our Calgary Service Area. Additional brine storage tanks are in place.
Monitoring weather events
Mainroad monitors weather forecasts very closely. We track weather events three days out so that we can be as ready as possible to respond to whatever the road condition is. When a weather event occurs, our crews are working around the clock plowing, sanding and/or salting as conditions warrant.
Rapid weather conditions are not a localized phenomenon
Snow, rain, warming trends and then sudden drops in temperature plus a heavy snow event all in the course of 72 hours are not unique to Mainroad’s Service Area. This phenomena is consistent throughout Eastern BC. Weather systems such as these require quick transitions to alternate product application. The Mainroad Service Area is not alone in dealing with snow and ice covered highways at this time.
People may not be aware that de-icing product is not effective when air and road temperatures fall below -6C. When this occurs, snow and ice will compact onto the highway surface creating a challenge, even for graders equipped with steel blades to clear the surface. The surface then must be sanded continuously in order to maintain traction. In order to keep up with the sanding needs, multiple work shifts around the clock are required. This season, Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting is trialing a salt brine calcium mix in the communities of Cranbrook and Sparwood. The expectation is to have a quicker reaction and at lower temperatures. This trial will be monitored closely.
We encourage all motorists to drive according to winter conditions. As temperatures warm, Mainroad crews will be working to clear the highway surfaces as quickly as possible.
Communication with Stakeholders
· Ahead of winter operations, Mainroad held pre-winter all agency meetings with local stakeholders throughout our service area on the following date(s).
November 26th, 2014 at the Invermere Firehall | Attendance: 12
November 27th, 2014 at the Fernie Park Place Lodge | Attendance: 17
November 28th, 2014 at the Heritage Inn in Cranbrook | Attendance: 10
Overall there was good roundtable discussion and we answered many questions during these sessions. We also encouraged everyone to direct concerns to Mr. Al Sander, General Manager for Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting by email – firstname.lastname@example.org and through our toll free number, 1-800-665-4929.
We are providing regular reports to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and stepping up communications to stakeholders on what is happening on our highways including weather advisories, equipment activities, and material being used.
What is important for people to know
· Listen to road and weather reports and be prepared for changing road conditions;
· Visit www.drivebc.ca for current road conditions, weather forecasts, and real-time conditions via webcams;
· Report changing road conditions to Mainroad’s 24 hour hotline: 1-800-665-4929. This hotline is used to update DriveBC, dispatch additional personnel and record public communication as required.
We want to remind the driving public to drive carefully and to slow down during winter events.