A new seven-year contract has been signed between Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting and the provincial government, announced Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett on Friday.
The new contract, which provides for $16.7 million annually over the term, replaces an expiring contract between the same two entities that includes new standards and specifications and close to $500,000 in additional annual funding.
“This new contract increases the amount spent on maintenance by $490,000 a year so Mainroad will be able to meet the expectations of people in the region,” said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, in a press release. “With Mainroad continuing as the maintenance contractor for this area, there will be a smooth transition to the new contract and the comfort that an experienced contractor with employees who are knowledgeable about the local issues will continue to keep our highways safe.”
Jack Bennetto, District Manager for the Rocky Mountain District with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, noted that the the new contract contains higher standards and more stringent requirements.
“We’ve heard you, the public, and because of that, we’ve changed the specifications, primarily in winter, and we’ve also added some money to the contract, almost half a million dollars per year,” Bennetto said, during the announcement.
Five major points of Mainroad’s contractual operations moving ahead include:
• Increased investment in larger, more efficient equipment (6 tridem axle, 18 tandem axle and 8 single axel plows, all with wing plows attached) supplemented with one tow plow with anti-icing capacity and one trailer sanding unit which creates a 14 per cent increase in winter material carrying capacity.
• Having all plows equipped with AVLS (Automated Vehicle Locator System) which uses GPS to track the plow locations and ensure efficient deployment of the fleet.
• Relocating the maintenance yards and having greater stockpiles of materials at those yards to save the local area better.
• Increasing the use of liquid anti-icing chemicals by 250 per cent (currently, Mainroad uses one million litres, usage will increase to 3.5 million litres) by having liquid chemical production capability and storage at all five yards.
• Having a ‘Snow Desk’ staffed 24 hours a day which will have the capability to deploy equipment anywhere in the service area as required that the public can contact.
“I’m satisfied as local MLA that Mainroad can and will do a good job,” said Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett. “I think there have been issues the past where I have raised publicly and also directly with Mainroad and I think Mainroad has addressed those issues.
“In combination with those issues and the commitment of the unionized workforce that works with them and the new contract that the Ministry of Transportation put in place and the new money, I think we’re in pretty good shape going into next winter.”
Mainroad’s service area stretches from the Alberta/U.S. border and covers Highways 3, 93E and 95, stretching up north to Vermillion Crossing and west to just past Yahk.
The highway inventory includes 3,600 lane kilometres of maintained roads, of which 570 lane kilometres are numbered highways. The area also includes 11 rest areas, 100 bridge structures, four tunnels and 40 retaining wall structures.
Peter Ashcroft, Mainroad CEO, said the new contract builds on the experience the company has had working in the region and that he’s confident the bid will meet the new government standards.
“We’ve heard the public as well and the minority that has complained, we have always looked inwardly and look in the mirror at how we are performing and we want to do a really good job in the region, so with these new contract standards, we’re committing to provide that service that the Ministry expects,” Ashcroft said.
While Bennett said he is confident that Mainroad will meet the new contract standards, he also said the public has a duty to drive responsibly on the highways if winter conditions are bad.
“The people driving the vehicles on the highways, have by far and away, the greatest influence on whether there are accidents or not,” Bennett said. “Where we live in the Rocky Mountains, we have weather that’s unpredictable, it changes, we have temperature changes that come with differences in elevations.
We are never going to have roads guaranteed to be even safe at certain times of the year with the weather that we do have, so people still have to accept the responsibility to drive safely.”