The B.C. government is renewing most of its 28 regional highway maintenance contracts this year, increasing plowing and patrolling standards for winter storms.
The transportation ministry’s new contracts call for Class A highways to be returned to “bare pavement” condition within 24 hours of a winter storm, when the temperature is -9 C or warmer. The previous standard for those conditions is 48 hours.
The new contracts, for 10 years with an option for a five-year extension, also call for more frequent patrols of each service area and communication with the public about fast-changing road conditions during severe weather. For Class A highways, patrols are to be done every 90 minutes during storms, from the previous standard of four hours.
When storms are forecast, patrols are to be done every four hours, rather than every 24 hours.
The ministry feeds highway condition information into its DriveBC website and has begun installing variable speed limit signs on major routes like the Coquihalla Highway that are subject to severe winter storms.
There are 28 maintenance contract regions around the province, and most contracts to be awarded with the new standards by the end of 2019. One of the most remote regions, Stikine northwest to Dease Lake and Atlin, has been awarded to the existing contractor, Lakes District Maintenance Inc., with the new contract effective Aug. 1.
The contract for Chetwynd, Dawson Creek and Tumbler Ridge in northeastern B.C. has been awarded to Argo Road Maintenance, which is also responsible for maintaining provincial highways in the Thompson region.
B.C. spends about $400 million per year to private contractors for highway maintenance, covering 47,000 km of highway and 2,800 bridges. Their crews apply 750,000 tonnes of winter abrasives and 100,000 tonnes of salt each year.
The ministry has an online satisfaction survey where B.C. residents can select their home region and rate performance of summer and winter maintenance, line markings, traffic management in construction zones, inland ferries, commercial vehicle enforcement and DriveBC information.