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Posted: February 15, 2018

RDEK asking for winter roads maintenance review

The Regional District of East Kootenay is asking the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) for a review of highway winter maintenance standards following a request by City of Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano Feb. 9.

Highway 93/95 north of Fort Steele. e-KNOW photos

The board almost unanimously agreed to send a letter to MOTI requesting a review of the winter maintenance standard and a report on the historical data of motor vehicle collisions and incidents in the East Kootenay, including secondary roads, following a detailed discussion.

City of Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick was the lone vote against sending a letter.

“When it comes to accidents, we have to consider there are idiots on the road who take chances and highways can’t be responsible for somebody making silly decisions and over-driving for conditions or whatever the circumstances,” noted McCormick, who cautioned the board the letter should stick to “areas we know to be of specific concern.”

Electoral Area A Director Mike Sosnowski agreed. “If we just keep writing letters, and whining we just turn into whiners. Ask for something they can shoot for.”

Electoral Area G Director Gerry Wilkie said the board has held meetings with Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting and MOTI personnel in the past and suggested “a better avenue” would be to meet with them again.

Mayor Mary Giuliano

Giuliano replied “there is no point in writing to Mainroad because they are following the standards the government has set.

“I would like the government to review those standards and see if they actually are working, because from what we see it doesn’t seem to be working. And it does seem that there are more accidents. We can easily access those numbers because the RCMP have records of how many accidents are in the area. It is just to bring it to their attention,” she said of the suggested letter, “because it is a new minister and perhaps she’s not up to speed on what is going on and she should know our concerns; she should hear that we are concerned, especially when people are dying and I know it might not be there is more but it certainly sounds like it. I know when I lobbied to get Lizard Creek Bridge replaced, I said there were more accidents and when I checked with the RCMP they agreed there were more accidents than normal” and that helped lead the provincial government to replace the bridge.

Electoral Area F Director Wendy Booth noted when Mainroad’s last contract was signed a couple of years ago the standards were increased for the highways but decreased for secondary roads.

“The standards that have been set I think are generally working for the highways; definitely not” for secondary roads, said Electoral Area E Director Jane Walter, noting she receives plenty of calls of complaint.

“So it is definitely not working,” she said, suggesting the set provincial standards don’t take into consideration the varying environmental conditions of highways.

Electoral Area B Director Stan Doehle said “the gist of the letter is ‘are the standards good enough?’ We’re not the experts but the ministry can come back with a report to us and say they’re good enough or not.”

He also questioned whether the region would be better served by “a government run” highways maintenance system.

“They could do a better job. Talk to the workers out there; they have a standard and they meet it but I would say they are minimum standards.”

Village of Radium Hot Springs Mayor Clara Reinhardt

Village of Radium Hot Springs Mayor and board director Clara Reinhardt said it would be helpful if the ministry could provide a report on where incidents are occurring, with an eye on when and where they happen.

“How do you figure out where the problem spots are? Because quite honestly, we’ve just been talking and we are really happy (around Radium) – so are there some specific areas? On Highway 3 in the Moyie area, how many times do you cross that river? Is there too much moisture in the air, so should they change their mix of sand and salt? There could be some very specific things that could come out of doing an assessment.”

City of Cranbrook councillor and board member Wes Graham agreed, pointing out it would be interesting to see statistics over the past 15 years “and see if there has actually been an increase in accidents or we’re hearing about them more because of the advent of social media. And to look at what’s actually happening on the road and if this is a trend or is it just easier to access the information now when an accident happens” thanks to such things as DriveBC and media and social media reporting on highway conditions.

“When you are talking about standards you have to look at the history as well,” he told the board.

Lead image: One of two off-road crashes on Highway 95A near the Airport Road turnoff Dec. 20, 2017. Carrie Schafer/e-KNOW photo

– Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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