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Burns Lake residents voice highway frustrations

Facebook group compiles complaints
Local residents have turned to Facebook to voice their concerns about highway maintenance.

Residents of the Lakes District have channelled many of their complaints about highway conditions into a Facebook group called Lakes District Hwy 16 Complaints and Bouquets.

The group, which has 678 members at the time of writing, is meant as a place where residents can put their complaints (and praise), so it can be compiled and used to improve road safety.

Trina Dawson, one of the group’s administrators, said in a February 15 post that the point of the group wasn’t to bash the regional highway maintenance company, Lakes District Maintenance (LDM), but to keep a record of issues on the road.

“Highways safety to the lowest bidder is just not working,” said Dawson. “The more you guys post about the road maintenance, the more we will have to push for change.”

She added that positive feedback about road maintenance can also help create a model for good highway service.

Many of the group’s members posted complaints about snow clearing operations. In one March 1 post, a member posted photos showing a snow-covered stretch of Highway 16, writing:“What is wrong with this picture?”

Another member wrote that an LDM grader had pushed pile of snow in front of the driveway of her home. She was home at the time and was able to clear the snow, but otherwise it would have been impossible to get past the pile and enter her home, she wrote.

“[T]his would’ve compromised my safety when turning in my driveway and left my car sitting on the side of the highway, in the lane, in a snowstorm while I cleared the berm,” she wrote.

But members have also posted positive feedback about the company’s performance, thanking LDM workers for clearing snow on their streets.

More recently, the group has featured the feedback about the company’s handling of flooding, including road closures for repairs to washed-out roads.

One resident said LDM needs a better system on its website for announcing problems on the road. “LDM needs a page on their website that we can access that advises of upcoming closures and delays on all the roads they maintain,” the member wrote.

Mike Philips, quality assurance and planning manager at LDM, said that he’s aware of the group and the complaints of members. “Our crews are out there and they’re working as hard and as fast as they can on things,” he said. “Our goal is to get the roads open and safe as fast as we can.”

He urged people with complaints to call LDM’s toll-free number at any time of day if they have a complaint, and said that a company official would call back if requested.

Lakes District News also asked the Philip about stiffer highway regulations recently announced by the provincial transportation ministry — which are being rolled out this year as maintenance contracts across the province come up for renewal, including in the Lakes District.

Those regulations include provisions requiring contractors to carry out more frequent patrols on highways during major weather events and to treat highways with anti-ice chemicals before weather events occur.

Philip declined to comment about those new regulations, saying that the company is currently involved in negotiations and that any questions had to be directed to the provincial ministry of transportation.