Hearing the outcry from Cowichan Valley residents, especially those from the Cowichan Lake area, when Mainroad Contracting removed the Hill 60 webcam, I immediately contacted the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) officials.
My contacts at MoTI explained to me the older equipment at Hill 60 was owned and operated by the maintenance contractor-Mainroad, who felt it would be more useful to them at the new site in Mesachie Lake.
So many of you who regularly use that particular webcam at Hill 60, contacted me and shared how important the images from the Hill 60 site were for making decisions about travel during the inclement weather in the winter.
Even though the webcam only broadcast images during daylight hours, many of you felt passionate about how important the pictures of weather and driving conditions were to your sense of personal safety.
I explained to MoTI officials the importance of the webcam at Hill 60, citing how weather changes often occurred in that general vicinity and webcam users would often make travel decisions based on images viewed at that site. MoTI staff were somewhat surprised by the negative reaction to Mainroad’s decision to move their equipment to Mesachie Lake.
I told my MoTI contacts that comments I had received personally, numbered far greater that the many letters to the editor that appeared in local newspapers.
I pressed the fact that Highway 18 can be a dangerous stretch of road and that when driving conditions are less than perfect, the number of accidents and vehicles that end up in the ditch increases dramatically.
I insisted that based on comments I had received, nothing less than a new webcam at Hill 60 would satisfy the community’s demands.
I’m pleased to announce that our shouts have been heard. Ministry (MoTI) staff confirmed to me last week that new, state of the art, DriveBC webcam equipment will be installed this spring/summer and will be in operation for next fall and winter’s viewing.
Technical details as to exactly what equipment will be used is still being assessed, yet work at the site has already begun. I have been promised we will have at least the same level of service provided by the old Mainroad equipment, with the benefit of new technology providing the images.
Due to the remoteness of the site, the webcam will likely still be solar powered and images transmitted via cellular signals. I worked with MoTI staff to explore the possibility of installing lighting to improve the service to 24 hour viewing, yet it was decided the cost was prohibitive at this time.
I let MoTI staff know it was a priority for Cowichan Lake area users to have 24 hour access to webcam images in the winter, and MoTI replied that if future provincial funding was to become available, Hill 60 would be considered for a highway lighting project at the webcam site.
I want to thank members of the community who made the effort to write letters to the paper, commented on MoTI websites, and especially those of you who contacted me directly.
Your comments provided me with the opportunity to work directly with provincial government staff, on your behalf, to improve driver safety for people travelling on Highway 18 in less than perfect conditions, during the winter months.
Ian Morrison, is the CVRD Director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls.