The B.C. government has been reviewing and renewing most of its 28 regional highway maintenance contracts this year, and has increased plowing and patrolling standards to cope with winter storms and severe weather.
The maintenance contract for service area 16 (South Cariboo) in the Southern Interior, which includes provincial road maintenance for Cache Creek, Lillooet, and 100 Mile House, has been awarded to Dawson Road Maintenance Ltd. (formerly Interior Roads Ltd., the previous contractor for the service area).
The contract has a 10-year term and an optional five-year extension. It began on June 1, 2019, the day after the existing contract expired.
The new maintenance contracts for all service areas require higher standards and a more proactive approach when a severe winter storm occurs or is predicted. One improvement is the requirement for a return of Winter Class A highways, such as Highways 3 and 97, to bare pavement within 24 hours of a winter storm when the temperature is -9° C or warmer. The previous standard was 48 hours.
Patrol frequencies will be increased to every 90 minutes during winter storms on Class A highways (the previous standard was every four hours). When a winter storm is forecast, patrols will be made every four hours, rather than every 24 hours as previously required.
The new contracts also require contractors to be more proactive prior to a winter storm, and to spread anti-icing chemicals prior to the storm.
The Ministry of Transportation feeds highway condition information into its DriveBC website (www.drivebc.ca), and has begun installing variable speed limit signs on major routes like the Coquihalla Highway that are subject to severe winter storms.
Real time information about road conditions and weather is gathered, and MOTI officials are able to analyze it and adjust speed limits accordingly.
This past winter, the requirement for winter tires or chains on some high mountain routes was extended to April 30 from March 31, to account for early spring storms.
B.C. pays about $400 million per year to private road contractors in B.C. to maintain nearly 47,000 kilometres of road and 2,800 bridges in some of the most challenging terrain in Canada. Every year, crews apply 100,000 tonnes of salt and 750,000 tonnes of winter abrasives over 1.2 million kilometres of B.C. highways.
The province is still looking for feedback from drivers about their experiences on B.C.’s roads. The annual “Customer Satisfaction Survey” is available online until Sept. 3, and is looking for feedback on road conditions, transportation projects, DriveBC highway information, commercial vehicle safety, and enforcement.