British Columbia

Regional politicians demand answers about East Kootenay highway maintenance

As questions continue following a deadly crash on Highway 3 earlier this month, regional officials are demanding answers from the province about private highway maintenance contracts.

Three people were killed earlier this month in a crash on Highway 3

Mainroad East Kootenay is the company hired by the province to maintain highways in the East Kootenay region. (Facebook/ Mainroad East Kootenay)

As residents continue to raise questions about winter highway maintenance in the B.C. Interior following a deadly crash earlier this month, regional district officials are asking the province to get involved.

Two men and a woman were killed in the serious collision on Highway 3 near Yahk, B.C., when a tractor trailer lost control on black ice and collided head-on with an oncoming pickup truck.

"It's a horrific accident and local people out of Cranbrook passed in that accident … and it brings it front-and-centre for everybody again," said Stan Doehle, a director with the Regional District of East Kootenay.

"It's a major concern to everybody out there. What shape are those highways in?"

Since the deadly crash, there has been renewed criticism of Mainroad East Kootenay, the company hired by the province to maintain area highways.

On the day of the deadly crash, some residents reported the roads had not been sanded.

Questions about privatization

As a response to concerns, regional officials have written a letter asking the Ministry of Transportation to reconsider its decision to hire private companies for highway maintenance.

"The only thing we can do as local government is push the province, sit down with them and hopefully we can come up with a better solution than contracting out," said Doehle.

Joan MacKinnon (left) and Clayton Murrell were two of the victims of a deadly crash on Highway 3 on Feb. 3, 2018. (Cranbrook Professional Fire Fighters Local 1253/Facebook)

When CBC asked Mainroad for an interview, the company emailed the following statement:

'"As Mainroad is contracted by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for winter highway maintenance in the East Kootenay service area, we are not at liberty to comment."

No response yet from the province

The province has said Mainroad meets or exceeds service expectations. 

"Since it was privatized, the province keeps stating that Mainroad meets their metrics. They keep going back to that," said Doehle.

"But the Ministry of Transportation sets the metrics."

"We'd like to sit with the ministry and see what they have to say about it and how we can keep our highways safer," said Doehle.

The province has not yet responded to the letter from the regional district.

With files from CBC's Daybreak South and Chris Walker.

About the Author

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.

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