New maintenance regulations are meant to make roads safer. (Houston Today file photo)

New maintenance regulations are meant to make roads safer. (Houston Today file photo)

B.C. sets tougher highway maintenance standards

26 of 28 contacts up for renewal by Oct. 2019

Contractors responsible for highway maintenance in B.C. will soon face tougher standards, as the government rolls out a new set of regulations.

With 26 of 28 highway maintenance contacts coming up for renewal by Oct. 2019, those stricter new rules will apply on almost every highway in the province.

That includes the contract covering the Lakes District — service area 24 — which includes Houston, Burns Lake and the area south of François Lake.

The contract is currently held by Lakes District Maintenance, a Burns Lake-based company. A list of qualified contractors published by the government in January includes 14 companies.

The new rules will require contractors to return roads to bare pavement within 24 hours of a weather event — instead of the current 48 hours — if temperatures are above -9 C, according to the CBC. In colder temperatures, contractors will have to keep a compact surface of snow, smoothing out potholes and ruts.

Companies will reportedly have to boost their patrol frequencies during weather events on major highways: instead of the current four hours, they’ll be doing the rounds every 90 minutes. And anti-ice chemicals will have to be spread on the road by contractors before weather events occur.

Contracts for highway maintenance province-wide cost the government $300 million, and it’s unclear whether the new standards will cause that price tag to rise. But Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has indicated that the government hopes the updated regulations will improve safety on the road, according to the CBC.

The contracts will last for ten years, with an optional five-year extension, “which will provide continuity of services and extended labour peace,” according to an information bulletin posted by the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. “Travellers can rely on improved maintenance service levels that meet or exceed best practices throughout North America.”

This comes after a winter of record-breaking snowfalls, with monster storms that have strained snow removal resources across the northern B.C. Interior. Many locals in the Lakes District have described this winter as the worst in recent memory.