Tough winter driving conditions are a part of life in most of Canada. The seasons change, you put on winter tires, slow down and drive to conditions. However, this week, as anyone who has ventured out onto East Kootenay highways can tell you, conditions have been particularly challenging.
A FaceBook group called Taking Back East Kootenay Highways is pointing fingers at the highways contractor Mainroad, saying that they are not doing a good enough job keeping the highways in the area safe through the winter months.
Robert Campbell is one of the administrators of the group.
“It seems to us that not enough attention is being paid to roads after major incidents,” he said. That means making sure that roads are sanded and additional clearing is done days after a storm, he says.
“We all understand there are limitations to what sand and gravel can do, but they are not doing enough. Look at the roads this week. Would those conditions be acceptable in a parking lot where owners are liable? I don’t think so.”
This week the group began circulating a petition stating the following:
The undersigned petitioners, residents of the Province of British Columbia, request that the Honourable House demand the Government of British Columbia to:
1. Relieve “Mainroad Contracting” from its role in highway maintenance for the East Kootenays of British Columbia and elect a different contractor for at least one term.
2. Conduct a thorough review of the monitoring and enforcement of highway maintenance contractors.
3. Collect and publicly distribute detailed statistics related to single or multi vehicle accidents, injuries, and fatalities for each highway maintenance region.
Campbell says there will be volunteers out there with the petition in the next month or so, at malls, stores and even door to door in some areas.
“The Legislature will not accept online petitions so we urge anyone to print it out and get signatures,” he said. “We don’t have a goal but we hope that in the next four to six weeks we can at least get a few thousand signatures and then present it to MLA Bennett.”
The group has already made phone calls to the office of Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, complaining about the state of the roads.
Bennett’s office has sent out a statement:
“Thank you for your email concerning the roads. We are taking your email very seriously and have brought your concerns to the attention of the Manager at Mainroads.
“We have also been in contact with the Senior Management of the Ministry of Highways. We have been assured that Mainroads has 3 graders working to remove the ice on Highway 3. After the ice has been removed Mainroads will be applying sand or salt depending on temperature with liquid calcium to improve traction.
“The cold weather has been a challenge to remove the ice and Mainroads is working on it.”
“There is no question that at this time of year there are a lot of complaints about highway conditions,” said Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald. “And there have been tough weather conditions lately. But there is also no question that contracts are getting tighter and tighter and it’s bound to show up. Roads simply aren’t being maintained well enough. The quality of road maintenance just isn’t there. When people’s lives are at stake, the province has to pay attention.”
The provincial Ministry of Transportation is looking for feedback on transportation priorities until December 12. You can put provide feedback at http://engage.gov.bc.ca/transportationplan/
Moving people safely is one of the areas on which the province will accept feedback.
Mainroad East Kootenay was contacted for this story and indicated a statement would be released. That statement can be found here.