Winter road maintenance operations have been underway for the last two weeks as Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting gears up for another winter season in the region.
With a territory that stretches from Yahk, to Radium Hot Springs and the Alberta and U.S. borders, Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting is responsible for maintaining the roads in all seasons.
Now that winter has arrived, the company is reminding drivers to be aware of road and weather conditions as well as to drive safely when in close proximity to winter maintenance vehicles.
“The biggest thing for us is public safety,” said Andries De Witt, the general manager for Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting. “and then obviously the safety of our own employees on the roads and respecting the plows out there.”
De Witt notes that plows will be travelling at speeds between 30-60 kilometres an hour when operating on the roads and that drivers should have a buffer zone of 10 car lengths .
“They trucks will move over when safe to do so,” he said.
Story coming on winter road maintenance operations in the East Kootenay. Fitting that Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting held their press conference on a snow day. pic.twitter.com/p0ylGJo2ri
— Trevor Crawley (@tcrawls) November 19, 2019
The company has five yards in the region, with a main base in Cranbrook and satellite yards in Yahk, Fairmont, Elko and Sparwood, utilizing a fleet of 20 tandem axles, six single-axle and six tri-axle trucks and plows.
Mainroad is constantly gathering aggregate weather data from various sources as well as subscribing to a forecasting service that specifically examines road conditions, along with atmospheric forecasting.
When a weather event is coming up, managers meet to take stock of equipment and materials needed for the affected area. The type of weather event and the amount of forecasted moisture, whether in the form of rain, sleet or snow, will determine what materials are used, according to Richard Douglas, Mainroad’s operations manager.
Sometimes, crews to go out ahead of a weather event and pre-treat the roads, depending on the anticipated conditions, he added.
“We’re basically keeping the roads open during a snow event,” Douglas said. “The expectation for perfect road conditions, as the snow is falling, is a little bit unbalanced with reality.”
Once the weather event is over, then its time to get surfaces back to normal, he added.
“Now we’re talking about widening shoulders, we’re talking about a post-event treatment of the roads, clean up, if there’s any remaining compact snow or slush that the plow blades can’t actually remove, then we would do another chemical treatment,” Douglas said.
“Are there any additional slippery sections that are left that need additional sand or other materials? That sort of stuff.”
Once all that is complete, then mangers then meet for a post-event rundown and address any operational issues that arose in order to prepare for next time.
Public outreach and communication has been a key priority for the company, according to spokesperson Nikki Taylor.
The company completed a survey in 2018 ahead of the winter season to gather public feedback and responses to winter operations. Since then, the company beefed up outreach with a larger social media presence (Facebook & Twitter), posting weather advisories and bulletins as well as real-time operational content of crews in action.
A 24-hour phone line (1-800-665-4929) has also been set up for area residents to call and bring forward any concerns, while the website has an FAQ page and other content.
Mainroad is responsible for regional highways maintenance and rural roads not included in municipal boundaries. The company services 3,673 lane kilometres, including 106 bridges and four tunnels.