Avoiding Highway 3B to the Nancy Greene Junction during the winter months has become the norm for local residents, representatives from the Ministry of Transportation heard at Trail’s last council meeting.
City officials voiced their concerns on winter road service or lack of it to Hugh Eberle and Darrell Gunn who stopped in to provide Trail council an overview but didn’t leave without a message to Kootenay Boundary highway contractor, Emcon.
“We’ve had some real complaints particularly about Emcon’s operations, where people say that as soon as they hit an Emcon service area, they immediately notice a significant difference,” said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs.
Trail resident John Hudak said he’s covered a lot of mileage in the Kootenays and agreed there is a visible difference in the job Yellowhead Road and Bridge (YRB), which is the contractor for Central Kootenay, does in comparison.
“Somebody is either making an awful lot of money or somebody is not making any money because you can’t have much more disparity on the quality of roads,” he said. “I can tell exactly when I hit that road – the road that us locals call the Nancy Greene. You avoid that highway, you go through Castlegar because you can get yourself in some real problems up there.”
Emcon operations manager Ken Lawson said that stretch of road has been reviewed and the company has started to deploy more resources to it. Much like the Rossland hill, the Nancy Greene is considered high priority.
“It’s given the same class as Highway 3B but it’s used less, which traffic usage does help with maintenance because it spreads the sand and wears the snow away so there is that perception that it’s less maintained.”
Lawson has worked for three maintenance contractors in the province since 1978 and said he’s heard complaints from all sides.
“Emcon has been here for 20 years now and we’re very familiar with the areas that need to be done but it’s impossible to please everybody 100 per cent of the time, I’m afraid.”
The maintenance contractor works around the clock with a pulse on the weather and can have up to 41 plow trucks working in the Kootenay Boundary at once.
Highways within the area are rated for a winter class, which is based on factors like traffic volume, and each year the company reviews and submits a resource deployment that spells out where equipment will most likely be positioned during three basic storm events.
Emcon is also audited throughout the season and does take a look in-house at how each storm is handled and makes changes where necessary.
That said, there have been no major changes in the way Emcon tackles winter roads, said Lawson, noting not only the plow hard at work but preventive measures like salting and brining underway during the winter months.
“Your coldest time of the day when we get changing conditions in the road are most likely dawn and dusk so we watch those times very closely,” he said.
“But you can’t always prevent black ice and we’ve had some horrible freezing rain conditions.”
Lawson reminds drivers that the posted speed limits are for ideal conditions and drivers need to shift into winter driving, adding that accidents are more frequent at the beginning of winter but so are public communications records on anything from hitting a deer or slippery conditions.
For up-to-date information on road conditions, visit www.drivebc.ca