The storm that hit us nearly two weeks ago has let up but the ice and snow that has covered the roadways for days has merely turned into slush blanketing the roadways and resulting in unsafe driving conditions.
Last week, two Elk Valley residents launched a Facebook page entitled Taking Back East Kootenay Highways in an effort to draw attention to what they have deemed to be the poor maintenance of highways as a result of the privatization of our highway maintenance by the Ministry of Transportation. Co-owner Morgan Owen said she is frustrated that the safety of our residents goes to the lowest bidder and she wants to see some extreme changes.
In just over a week, the group gained 1,500 followers, voicing their personal complaints.
I’d like to take the time to voice a few of my own complaints.
While I understand that the freeze and thaw cycle makes clearing off roads extremely difficult, I don’t understand why, on the Wednesday, approximately five days after the storm hit the Elk Valley, the highway to Sparwood was still covered in ice and snow. While driving to Sparwood to cover a story, I was terrified that at any moment, I could slide right off the highway. Only one lane was cleared and the black pavement was still not visible.
I grew up in London, Ontario, where winter conditions were similar to that of the Elk Valley. Although the temperatures didn’t vary as much as they do throughout the valley, we did experience the freeze and thaw cycle on a regular basis and we did reach temperatures of below negative 40 degrees Celsius. In terms of driving conditions, highways would only be in a similar condition to those of the Elk Valley the day of the storm, and even then, they would only be covered with ice or snow for a few hours at most.
In the City of London, workers used salt, even when temperatures hit below minus 40 degrees and it seemed to work efficiently at clearing the roadways.
I’m not saying that Mainroad Contracting is to blame for poor driving conditions, but I do believe that both the city streets and sidewalks in Fernie and the highways throughout the Elk Valley need to be better maintained in order to avoid future collisions. Sidewalks that were walkable in the fall, including the one across the street from the 901 building on 1st Avenue, are non-existent this winter and many pedestrians have been forced to walk on the roadway, which poses another danger in itself. As a result of poor maintenance, pedestrians are forced to share a narrow, slippery roadway with drivers and I believe this is simply unacceptable.