Some Burns Lake residents have vented frustration over what they said was the inadequate response by Lakes District Maintenance (LDM) to the rough weather on Nov. 11.
After the freezing rain that fell during the morning, there were no sand trucks working on Highway 16 by 1:30 p.m., as Steve Gailing, a former LDM employee told Lakes District News.
“Around 1:30 p.m. the only activity I noticed was a lone sand truck being loaded in the Burns Lake Highway Maintenance Contract yard,” he said.
Just an hour before that and past the Yellowhead Road and Bridges (YRB) service area, Gailing saw two sand trucks plowing the road and applying abrasives.
But the conditions became unacceptable once he reached the area between Priestly Hill and Six Mile Hill and the rock cuts were particularly dangerous, he said.
“The multiple weather forecasts over a couple of days should have given LDM more than a suitable time frame to have a plan in place for such an event. They quite clearly did not.”
Conditions were better when Gailing reached the Houston area, which was well-plowed and sanded on that day.
Some residents voiced concerns about LDM’s response on the Facebook group Lakes District Hwy 16 Complaints & Bouquets.
“Freezing rain and your 10 grains of sand on corners only was pitiful compared to YRBs work from Vanderhoof to Priestly Hill. We saw 4 YRB trucks out and not one LDM truck,” wrote Lianne Olson on Nov. 12.
“If this is an example of what we are to see this winter, we as taxpayers are being ripped off and are having our safety put in jeopardy for your profits.”
Olson also asked John Rustad, Nechako Lakes MLA what is being done to ensure the highway is being properly maintained.
In reply on Facebook, Rustad said he would meet with Ministry of Transportation officials and ask about road maintenance issues.
“I have noticed a difference as well,” Rustad said. “Part of it is the material used. LDM uses a crushed rock which doesn’t show up in the road while YRB uses more of a sand type product. Highway 16 is supposed to be a class A highway for winter maintenance. I will confirm if that standard is being met.”
In addressing the issues raised, Mike Philip, General Manager of LDM acknowledged that three calls were received on Nov. 11 in relation to the road conditions.
He said LDM had planned for the inclement weather, however he didn’t say how many LDM trucks were dispatched.
“This was a forecasted event and with that information coming from weather reports before the storm our crews pre-treated the highway with salt prior to the event as well as patrolled, salted and sanded throughout the day and evening during and after the event.”
The company’s plans for treating roadways in icy or snow compacted conditions varies depending on the precipitation amounts, air and road temperatures and weather forecasts.
“We use multiple products including salt brine, road salt and calcium chloride to pre-treat areas as well as winter abrasives for traction during and after an event. What we use for each storm really is dictated by each weather event as no two storms are the same so we may use only one product or multiple products prior to, during and after weather events,” he explained.
Philip advised that if residents have problems with road conditions to call LDM’s toll free 24/7 call centre at 1-888-255-8055 so the information can be sent to the crews, instead of posting complaints online.