The provincial highways department is promising better communication and snow-clearing standards when a new operator takes over highway maintenance in the area next week.
The contract for Service Area 9, which includes provincial roads in the Grand Forks and Castlegar areas, was awarded to Yellowhead Road and Bridge Ltd. this summer.
The contract has a 10-year term and an optional five-year extension. It takes effect on Monday.
The last 15-year contract, worth $10.67 million, was held by Emcon Services. There’s no word on the value of this contract.
Highways maintenance in the region came under scrutiny after several fatalities locally last winter.
The province says it has rewritten the maintenance contracts to have higher snow-clearing standards and a more proactive approach when a severe weather event occurs.
Among the changes:
• Increased communication with the public about rapidly changing road conditions during severe weather events and other incidents.
• Return Winter Class A highways to bare pavement within 24 hours of a winter weather event ending at pavement temperatures of -9 C or warmer, when de-icing chemical use is safe and effective. The previous standard was 48 hours.
• Increase patrol frequency to 90 minutes on a Class A highway during a winter storm. The previous standard was four hours. Under the new contract, Highway 3, 3A from Castlegar to Nelson, 3B from Trail east to the junction with 3; and 22 will be considered a Class A highway.
• When a weather event is forecasted, increase the patrol frequency to four hours. The previous standard was 24 hours.
Under the new agreement, contractors will be required to be more proactive prior to a winter weather event occurring, and to spread anti-icing chemicals prior to the weather event.
In all, private contractors maintain nearly 47,000 kilometres of road and 2,800 bridges. The province spends about $400 million annually maintaining its highways.