Road maintenance contractors have two hours to restore traction on main highways after freezing rain hits, according to the government.
But many Burns Lake residents didn’t know that on Nov. 11 when some were frustrated at what they said was Lakes District Maintenance (LDM)’s inadequate response to road conditions during and after the freezing rain. Some took to social media to complain about how the situation was handled.
“During a freezing rain event, maintenance contractors must restore traction within two hours on a winter Class A highway,” as Danielle Pope, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) spokesperson told Lakes District News.
Highway 16 is a Class A Highway.
“The safety of all travellers is our top priority, and on occasions where a freezing rain event is deemed severe enough, a highway may be temporarily closed until road conditions have improved.”
Under other winter conditions, MOTI rules state that road contractors have up to 24 hours to return Class A highways to bare pavement after a winter storm when the temperature is -9C or warmer.
Speaking to Lakes District News, Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad sympathized with the frustrations of residents with the road conditions on Nov. 11.
“I didn’t go to Houston for that reason on that day. There are some days you just don’t go on the roads. I went to Vanderhoof and participated in the Remembrance Day events there instead,” he said.
“We need to have safety on the roads while that is happening and not two days later.”
Rustad spoke with Carl Lutz, MOTI’s District Manager in Smithers, who was surprised that no one shared their concerns with him after Nov. 11.
“Nobody had yet contacted the ministry office in Smithers. People can talk to them about it,” Rustad said.
MOTI has a monitoring and auditing process for road contractors to see how they’re following the rules and conditions of their maintenance agreements, said Pope.
LDM has held the contract for Service Area 24 (Lakes District) since Sept. 1, 2018. It expires on Aug. 31, 2028 and is worth $8.4 million.
Contractors must also keep records to ensure they’re complying with the maintenance specifications and quality control conditions.
Under the highway maintenance agreement that MOTI has with contractors, the government can in some cases “issue and deliver to the contractor a non-conformance report when the province determines that the contractor is failing to comply with the requirements of this agreement” and the contractor must remedy the points of non-conformance within a specified time.
Failure to remedy the situation can lead to disciplinary measures including termination of the agreement, in extreme cases.
Efforts to contact Mike Philip, General Manager of LDM were not successful by press time.