Over the past years there has been a lot of controversy regarding the maintenance of our highways during the winter season. It has become a contentious issue here in the Valley with a group of citizens setting up a Facebook page called ‘Taking Back East Kootenay Highways’.
There, members of the public report on what they have witnessed on the highways and question why there is a lack of maintenance.
Although East Kootenay MLA, Bill Bennett and Jack Bennetto, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) District Highways Manager have declared that the roads are better this year than they have been in the past, residents are still up in arms regarding the lack of snow plowing on our local highways and side streets. Mainroad Contracting has had the contract since 2001. The contract is up for renewal this year and residents want to see a change. According to Bennett, the private sector is the most cost efficient, effective way to maintain our highways.. Can you put a cost on saving lives?
Bennetto claims that Mainroad East Kootenay is mostly meeting the standards laid out by the provincial government and is mostly good enough. Apparently over the past decade the number of accidents on the highways has been cut in half, estimating that there were approximately 200 car accidents in 2005 compared to 100 in 2015, but is that good enough?
According to Bennett, “They are not perfect. But the evidence does not support the claim that they [Mainroad] are doing a terrible job.” I guess 100 incidents are acceptable?
But you can’t argue with the facts, the citizens of the East Kootenay’s drive these roads on a regular basis and know when they have and have not been plowed.
Driving to Cranbrook this past weekend, we encountered one plow truck heading eastbound. The highway going west was slushy and slippery and in need of plowing and sanding.
It has been noted that the highways are in better shape this year than they have been over the past few which begs the question if Mainroad’s contract is up for renewal, are they putting forth extra effort this year to ensure they get the contract again? And if they do manage to get the contract again what does that mean for highway conditions for the next few years?
The public is demanding better road maintenance and I think that it is high time the government takes notice of what the taxpayers here in the East Kootenays want.