Letters to the Editor: January 10

Downsizing and safety of B.C. highways; The sidewalks of Cranbrook

Downsizing and safety

Prior to the 1998 highways privatization, repair depots were supplied across Area 11, graders with wings and ice blades and trucks that could apply sand/salt, with underbody plow and/or front snow plow were available with trained operators from October 1 until March 31 each year, on shifts 24 hours day and night .

These were available at:

Sparwood – 4 trucks,1 grader, 2 4X4 loaders;

Fernie – 6 trucks, 2 graders, 2 4X4 loaders;

Jaffray- 4 trucks, 1 grader, 2 4X4 loaders;

Cranbrook – 7 trucks, 2 graders, 3 4X4 loaders;

Yahk – 3 trucks, 2 graders,1 4X4 loader;

Kimberley – 4 trucks,1 grader, 2 4X4 loaders;

Invermere – 6 trucks, 2 graders, 3 4X4 loaders;

Total – 34 trucks, 11 graders, 15 4X4 loaders.

These publicly owned units were all sold off after the second contract term and incoming contractors had to supply their own units and fit them up with snow plows, wings, sanders and underbody plows to meet job requirements. Each time the contracts are renewed the units are sometimes taken away and not sold to or shared with the incoming contractor, so sometimes fleet size numbers are lost and/or downsized, and the ability to react to historically known winter workloads are lost through downsizing for profits.

Placement of facilities with units near sand pits and salt storage where historic snowfalls had been recorded was planned so units and operators and supplies would be near and ready to tackle winter operations and limit travel times and back tracking. Downsizing these locations to save money on rental location to accrue profits hinders the response times and will effect the overall performance of the operations and condition of the winter roads and can result in an increased vehicle accident rates, with injuries and possible deaths, and surely increased insurance rates.

Defensive driving to meet road conditions is a driver responsibility, but having well maintained roads serves as an accident prevention tool. The cost of a load of sand is paltry to the legal cost of accident settlements that run into several million dollars each, let alone pain and suffering and loss of loved oneswho are precious and non replaceable.

Robert Johnson, Retired services superintendent, Highways operations, Nelson

Sidewalks

We arrived in Cranbrook for an extended holiday and have been disgusted by the state of the sidewalks.

For those in wheelchairs during spring, summer and fall, the ruts and wide cracks are a liability. People are getting hurt. This winter one of my family members who needs her wheelchair can’t even get out to enjoy a sunny day.

Transportation was not available. We did not seen one bus stop where we are staying. The trunk of a taxi cab in Cranbrook is not sufficient for most wheelchairs.

Therefore we would like to walk. We contacted the City last October about the state of their sidewalks and they didn’t respond.

I am ambulatory and find that sidewalks are not plowed well, or at all when walking several blocks to the Superstore and Walmart. My choices today were to walk on the highway and possibly get hit by a car not to mention angering drivers or to trudge through very deeply banked snow.

I chose the snow bank route. I lost my balance and fell into deep snow with groceries in hand. The snow was so deep, I couldn’t get up and had to crawl about 30 feet to a clear patch. I am just beyond middle age and this experience was both traumatizing and physically draining.

A young couple offered to help me and I am very thankful to both of them. I wish the city cared! I can’t imagine why tourists want to come to Cranbrook when the city has shown they don’t even  care enough about their own citizens to clear the sidewalks properly and to make them safe year-round.  It is sad but our family will not return to Cranbrook for our next holiday.

Rin Lloyd, Toronto