East Kootenay highways dangerous, not cleared for winter driving, residents say

“We pay $17 million of our tax paying dollars to go and take care of these highways that our families are travelling on, and we have people who are having head-on collisions, with children in their vehicles."

'Taking Back East Kootenay Highways' Facebook group has almost 2,000 members

The almost 2,000 members in the Taking Back East Kootenay Highways Facebook group post images of the conditions they see driving on Highways 3 and 93. (Taking Back East Kootenay Highways/Facebook)

A group of East Kootenay residents say the highways in their area are not being properly cleared by the company responsible for maintenance.

The Mainroad Group, the company contracted by the B.C. government to maintain Highways 3 and 93, has come under fire by a group called Taking Back East Kootenay Highways.

"We're finding that so many people are saying there's nothing on the roads. The roads aren't being taken care of properly. There's no sand on the roads; they're not out plowing and doing their job," said Cranbrook resident Tamara Cartwright Poulits, a member of the group.

Poulits said the conditions are causing accidents and the provincial government should be doing more to ensure "that these companies they hire to do their jobs are doing them."

"We pay $17 million of our tax paying dollars to go and take care of these highways that our families are travelling on, and we have people who are having head-on collisions, with children in their vehicles," she said.

"Something has to change. If it's not the contractor itself, then the ministry has to re-evaluate the legislation that they're using to help maintain all the highways in B.C."

Many concerned residents

The group, which was founded a few years ago by Fraser Sinclair, an ex-employee of Mainroad, has a Facebook page with almost 2,000 members.

The Facebook page has become a place for the residents to share images and stories about the highway conditions they've experienced.

The group's concerns caught the attention of Columbia River-Revelstoke NDP MLA Norm Macdonald, who presented a petition in the B.C. Legislature in May 2015 with almost 1,000 signatures of those worried about the highways.

Noel Mankey, the vice president of operations for Mainroad, told Daybreak South host Chris Walker the company has full stockpiles of salt and sand, all their equipment is "in good working order," and they have enough people to clear the roads.

"Our goal is to reduce accident frequency as much as possible," Mankey said.

According to a press release from Mainroad, challenging weather conditions do not always allow the company to have "bare and black conditions."

"Nor is that a requirement of our contract, although we strive to return the highways to bare and black conditions as quickly as possible."

Mainroad meeting expectations says province

Mike Lorimer, the regional director for the Southern Interior Region with the Ministry of Transportation, said that Mainroad is "generally meeting our contract expectations, and where there are concerns … we're dealing with them proactively in getting them fixed."

Lorimer said that the number of injuries and fatalities in the area has gone down from 190 incidents in 2006 to just under 100 in 2014.

The contract with Mainroad will expire in September 2016, so the province currently has a tender out for a new contract, which Lorimer said will include some new expectations for winter maintenance.

"It's the first one of our contracts around the province to be renewed. The last time we did this was over 10 years ago, so there's been lots of new changes with technology, so we're incorporating some of that and then also some of the concerns we did hear locally around roads."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Concerned residents say East Kootenay highways are not being properly cleared for winter


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.