The shock of rumbling along streets strewn with potholes is a familiar experience for anyone who drives in Burns Lake. Motorists may wonder who is responsible for filling the craters that dot the roads — and what they’re doing about it.
In Burns Lake, the village is responsible for all roads within village limits, but with a couple of major exception: the stretches of Highway 16 and Highway 35 that pass through town are taken care of by Lakes District Maintenance (LDM), the highway maintenance firm.
More broadly, LDM’s service area includes all major thoroughfares and most side roads from Lake Babine in the north to the whole Southside. Its service area reaches as far west as Hungry Hill — about 32 km west of Houston — to Priestly Hill, east of Burns Lake.
LDM does all of its own work, except for asphalt paving, which it subcontracts. The painting of lines is also a separate provincial contract, according to Mike Philip, LDM’s general manager (he was formerly quality assurance and planning manager).
Everything else is handled by LDM, he said. “We do any cutting, digging, repairing, that kind of stuff,” said Philip in a recent interview.
Perhaps the most notorious spot on the roads of Burns Lake was a crater-like pothole on Highway 16, in the westbound lane approaching the local Home Hardware.
LDM applied a temporary fill to the pothole on May 18, and Philip said it would be fixed for good when asphalt became available during the week of May 21.
When it comes to potholes on Highway 16 in Burns Lake village centre, Philip said that local geography presents special challenges — especially during spring.
“The big issue, especially with Burns Lake, is that everything’s on a hill,” said Philip, explaining that water flows down and collects in low-lying areas — including a particularly rough patch of highway by the RBC bank.
This results in a destructive hydraulic effect. As temperatures swing from freezing to thawing conditions, the water contracts and expands, causing the road to heave and crack.
The water is then driven into those faults with the pressure of passing vehicles, including the large trucks that ply Highway 16 daily.
“Every year you’re going to have that, if you have any weakness in the pavement, it’s going to start to punch out,” he said, noting that heavy snowfalls this past winter aggravated the problem.
Drier conditions at the end of spring provide an opportunity for addressing the hardest-hit areas, Philip said.
He said the company chooses the spots to focus on in collaboration with the provincial ministry of transportation, which only provides a limited amount of funding for patching annually. He wouldn’t disclose how much money was available.
Village has $52,000 budget
Asked about the village’s strategy for dealing with potholes in Burns Lake, Mayor Chris Beach said that potholes “are dealt with on an as-needed basis and are prioritized based on severity of the pothole and the time of year.”
Village public works crews patch smaller potholes throughout the year, he said, while larger areas are patched by paving contractors. The village’s pothole patching program has a budget of $52,000 for 2018, according to Beach.
The roads of Burns Lake have emerged as a contentious topic — in April, village council committed to spending $372,000 on repaving a two-block stretch of Eighth Avenue.
More recently, council opted to fund next year’s repaving projects using reserve accounts, rejecting the prospect of going to a referendum about taking on debt for a larger overhaul.