Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure officials are on the road.
There is an increased presence because of a number of accidents this winter and complaints about maintenance on the Trans-Canada Highway as it rolls through the Shuswap.
Jack Bennetto, MOTI district manager Okanagan-Shuswap District, says the ministry is responding by elevating monitoring and audits of monitoring on the highway.
He says JPW, the company that has the contract until 2019 is meeting fulfilling their contracts, but notes the challenges the company has faced this winter, particularly during the recent cold weather.
Joe Roble (JPW president and general manager) has a brine mixing tank in Chase for pre-wetting sand, but is not using it when it’s too cold because salts don’t work at low temperatures,” Bennetto says, adding that when it is really cold the sand blows off the road. “MOTI is responsible to make sure contractors are doing what they are contracted to do and because of concerns over the past month, we’re there more than that.”
He says when inspectors went out to survey the maintenance, they found sand on the side of the road, but not where the vehicles being driven.
“We sent them out more often, but as long as it was cold, they were putting on twice the amounts,” he says.
And that can be a problem in and of itself.
Enderby resident Colleen Davis expressed her complaints about ‘winter abrasives’ in a Jan. 13 letter, including photos of the material JPW was applying to Highway 97B and two windshield repair bills, one from Dec. 27 in the amount of $44.75 and a second from Jan. 7 in the amount of $67.09.
Bennetto says maintenance companies are allowed apply a sand mixture containing pebbles of up to a maximum of 12 mm. “Some of the size criteria is there because it’s stays on the road,” he says, noting that the ministry is undertaking a trial in the Kootenays using a mixture with a maximum size of 9.5 mm.
“We’ll continue to do our very best, monitor more,” he says. “We’re also talking to city engineers to see what we can do to improve the safety of local roads.”
MOTI reports road conditions to Drive BC four times per day, more if conditions change for better or worse, he says.
Due to several recent accidents on Highway 1, Ministry inspectors have also stepped up enforcement on commercial trucks over five tons to make sure they are mechanically sound and following the rules of the road, Bennetto says.
He says inspectors were out during the overnight hours of Jan. 22, 23 and 24.
He says there were some load security issues but for the most part, truckers were abiding by the laws and commercial vehicle regulations requirements.