Mainroad says it is ready for winter

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, November 14 2018

Gabriolans should see an improvement in road conditions when the snow flies this winter - with new methods and potentially new equipment being brought in by the new road contractor.

This past summer, Mainroad Mid-Island Contracting took over the road maintenance contract for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI).

The area of their contract is essentially from Duncan to Bowser, and west to Tofino.

It also includes Gabriola and Lasqueti islands.

This past Thursday, Mainroad representatives hosted a meeting with local Gabriola stakeholders to talk about what’s being done to prepare for winter road conditions.

Stakeholders that were invited to the meeting and attending were BC Ambulance Service, Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department, the Islands Trust staff, Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District, as well as area staff from MOTI.

Invited but unable to attend were BC Ferries, the Gabriola RCMP, the Gabriola Chamber of Commerce, and the Regional District of Nanaimo.

Dale Martin, Operations Manager for Mainroad, said that with a new contract comes new equipment and a new fleet of trucks.

The issue right now is that the new equipment is still being delivered, and it may not arrive in time for winter. Whether that happens or not, Mainroad has a main plow as well as a pickup truck plow ready to serve Gabriola.

As Mainroad continues to update current trucks and wait for new trucks, they will be bringing in a live tracking system which will provide live tracking for their radio rooms on where trucks are, where trucks have been, and what road conditions are like.

This will let Mainroad know which roads on Gabriola have been plowed or de-iced, and what the weather and other conditions might be like for different parts of the island.

As some islanders have heard, one change coming this winter is that, as the weather forecast comes in, Mainroad will be using a pre-icing “salt brine” to coat roadways ahead of a snowfall.

Martin was asked how that might differ from the solid salt used in the past, especially as it pertains to runoff.

Martin said the brine concentration is 23.3 per cent salt - compared to whatever levels may have resulted from the solid salt being scattered on roadways previously.

The brine is produced at a facility on Duke Point, from salt purchased in Mexico.

Martin said the terms of the new 10-year contract with the province will mean that his crews will need to have Class A highways back to “bare and black” within 24 hours. None of the roads on Gabriola are Class A, so timelines remain the same as before - Mainroad will have 48 hrs after an “event” (such as a snowfall) has ended, to have roads cleared.

The Mainroad shift will begin at 4:30 a.m. on days where snow removal or other emergent road conditions need to be dealt with.

With the provincial Ministry representatives present, stakeholders had to ask if there are plans for anything beyond maintenance for Gabriola.

MOTI staff said there are no current plans that they are aware of for capital projects on Gabriola.

Asked about the Bertha/Barret intersection with North Road, MOTI staff said there are plans to add a flashing red light to the stop sign to make people aware of the stop sign.

As well, pedestrian-activated crosswalk flashers are planned for the crosswalk between North Road Plaza and Folklife Village, though no timeline was given on installation of those.

MOTI staff were also asked if there was anything that could be done to slow down drivers who are speeding through the school zone.

As pointed out by school district staff, unless the RCMP are actively present, there are still a number of vehicles being driven through the school zone above the speed limit.

MOTI staff said the most effective method is the, “Your Speed is…” radar-equipped signs, but those are costly to install (roughly $15,000 each).

The problem beyond the cost is that even on a busy day, Gabriola does not have the traffic volumes to warrant such signs.

The suggestion was that if there is a concern, and if people wanted those kinds of signs installed, letters from the school district as well as from the Parents Advisory Committee to the Ministry might push that along, despite low traffic volumes.

Going into the winter months, if a tree is down across the road, or there are other non-emergency road conditions, they need to be reported. The Mainroad staff said to call the 24-hour hotline and try to have as clear a description of the location as possible.

That number: 1-877-215-6006.