Expectations are being raised for highway maintenance contracts across B.C., including in the Cariboo Chilcotin region.
In announcing contract awards for the Cariboo region, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said Tuesday the new maintenance contracts for all service areas require higher standards and a more proactive approach when a severe weather event occurs including increased communication with the public about rapidly changing road conditions during severe weather events and other incidents affecting travel on B.C. roads.
Dawson Road Maintenance, formerly Interior Roads Ltd., has been awarded the contract for provincial roadways in the Williams Lake and Bella Coola areas, for a 10-year term beginning on July 1, 2019 with an optional five-year extension.
Robert Koopmans, director of communications for Dawson, said the new standards were outlined in the ministry’s request for proposals so the company made its operational plans to meet the standards.
“We certainly intend to meet them,” he said.
Contractors will be expected to return Winter Class A highways to bare pavement within 24 hours of a winter weather event ending at pavement temperatures of -9 C or warmer, when de-icing chemical use is safe and effective. The previous standard was 48 hours.
Frequency of patrols will be increased to 90 minutes during winter storms on class A highways, such as Highway 97 through the areas Dawson operates.
“We are going to our best,” Koopmans said when asked if the company will be up to the challenge. “The government set out those new standards, and they come with cost, so we calculated what the cost would be and made our business case.”
Previously the standard for patrols was every four hours.
Contractors will also be required to be more proactive prior to a winter weather event, and to spread anti-icing chemicals prior to the weather event.
“Weather is what weather is, that’s the hard part,” Koopmans said. “There are times when it all sounds great on a paper, such as must be clear within a certain number of hours, but it also depends on what Mother Nature does and what the weather looks like. There will be times when it will be a challenge, but we have planned for the new standards.”
To communicate to the public, Dawson will continue to work with DriveBC, use its own social media platforms and is rebuilding its website to be more modern and responsive.
“We want to communicate with people in the way they want to be communicated with,” Koopmans said.
The ministry said 26 of the 28 maintenance contracts in the province have been tendered and will be awarded by the end of 2019, through a staggered open-bidding process.
Drivers, your car weighs up to two tons. A cone won’t slow it down, but you can. Remember to slow down, pay attention and be respectful. Learn more at https://t.co/vWNRgvfIUu #ConeZoneBC pic.twitter.com/dxi9Q3FlmW
— Dawson Road Maintenance – Cariboo (@DawsonRoadMaint) June 18, 2019