Province announces highway safety improvements following ‘intense winter’ on mainland

Province announces highway safety improvements following 'intense winter' on mainland

Snow on the Coquihalla Highway. File Photo. Photo Credit: Drive BC

Snow on the Coquihalla Highway. File Photo. Photo Credit: Drive BC

After drivers in B.C. dealt with a tough winter on mainland highways, the government has announced new funding and measures to make the roads safer during winter months.

The Coquihalla summit had a total snowfall of 830 centimetres from Oct. 1, 2017, to the end of February 2018, which was 114 per cent higher than the 10-year average. The Coquihalla has an average of 21 full closures per winter. In January 2018, there were 35 closures, 31 involving commercial vehicles.

Kootenay Pass had a highest ever recorded snowfall of 1,012 centimetres from Oct. 1, 2017, to the end of February 2018; 148 per cent higher than the 10-year average.

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena said she has heard from people and communities throughout the province that the government needs to improve highway safety after “an intense winter.”

“With that in mind, our government is moving quickly to implement changes that will ensure people are able to get where they need to go more safely through the winter months,” Trevena said in a release.

The ministry is implementing a number of highway maintenance improvements including:

  • Stricter commercial vehicle chain-up requirements, including higher fines for commercial vehicle operators not carrying chains, or who don’t chain up when mandatory. The exact fine amounts are yet to be determined. Other North American jurisdictions have fines up to $1,200 for similar violations.
  • Commercial vehicle lane restrictions. On key three-lane highway sections during winter, commercial vehicles will be restricted from using the far left lane, to ensure more reliable and safe access for other drivers.
  • Investing in more weather stations and overhead signs.  The ministry will invest $1.8 million over the next three years in weather stations and overhead highway signs to give drivers as much information as possible while travelling during challenging conditions.
  • Improved road maintenance contractor oversight. Ministry of Transportation staff will expand contractor monitoring and auditing, including 24/7 compliance checks during winter storms. New tools and technology will enhance this oversight, including the use of GPS tracking of snow plows.
  • More support for safe winter driving awareness. The Winter Driving Safety Alliance, which is dedicated to improving road safety throughout the province, is managed by WorkSafeBC and funded by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and ICBC. The ministry will provide more funding and social media support for the Shift Into Winter campaign to ensure it reaches more British Columbians.
  • Winter tire and chain regulation expansion. The current regulations require drivers to equip their vehicles with winter tires on most B.C. highways, and all commercial vehicle operators to carry chains, from Oct. 1 to March 31. Motorists must have either M + S (mud and snow) or mountain/snowflake tires with a minimum tread depth of 3.5 millimetres, and commercial drivers must use chains when mandatory chain-ups are in place, or conditions warrant their use. The ministry will expand the date range through to April 30 on select highways and mountain passes, to account for potential early spring snowfall events which occur regularly in the Southern Interior and northern regions of the province.

The changes are expected to be in place by next winter. B.C.’s highway maintenance program is broken down into 28 service areas and 26 of those are up for contract renewal in 2018-19 through an open-bidding process. The new contract will include these improvements:

The new contract will require a more proactive approach to highway maintenance around winter weather events. The biggest improvements over the last contract are:

  • On Class A highways, a return to bare pavement within 24 hours of a winter weather event ending (old standard was 48 hours) at temperatures warmer than -9 C, when de-icing chemical use is effective.
  • An increase in patrol frequency to 90 minutes on a Class A highway like the Coquihalla during a winter storm (old standard was four hours).
  • When a weather event is forecasted to occur, an increase in patrol frequency to four hours in anticipation of the weather event coming (old standard was 24 hours)
  • A contractor requirement to use remote weather information systems to forecast when a weather event will occur, and to spread anti-icing chemicals prior to the weather event.
  • A 9.5-millimetre abrasive size (old standard was 12.5 millimetres) to reduce potential windshield damage.



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