'Basically a sheet of ice': B.C. bus driver says road maintenance lacking

The highway from Chase to Turtle Valley, B.C., is not getting the proper attention from road maintenance crews, according drivers in the area.

Ministry of Transportation says maintenance company did not meet standards during 1st winter storm

Al MacDonald is worried about safety when he drives his school bus full of children down a snowy, icy highway he says isn't getting enough attention from road crews. (The Associated Press)

Drivers near Chase, B.C., are worried poor highway maintenance on the Trans Canada Highway is putting drivers at unnecessary risk.

Al MacDonald drives his bus full of children from Chase to Turtle Valley on Highway 1 each morning, turning off the highway onto Squilax Turtle Valley Road.

 He's confident about his ability to make the right call on a road covered in snow and ice, but he isn't sure other drivers are able to handle extreme winter conditions. 

"I've seen a lot of near misses this year," MacDonald said.

"The highway itself is basically a sheet of ice until it warms up," said the experienced driver who does not feel it's safe for people to risk the road until "the heat of vehicle tires run the ruts into the road."

He's not alone.

Others who make the same drive know that one mistake could leave them in a ditch.

Jessica Bowman drives the same highway on her morning commute near Chase.

"Someone will get hurt or killed if the standard of maintenance does not improve."

The contractor for the highway in that area is JPW Road and Bridge Inc. 

CBC contacted JPW Road and Bridge Inc. three times for a response. The company said to contact the Ministry of Transportation and that it would not be responding. 

The ministry said it recognizes that JPW Road and Bridge Inc. did not meet its standards during its response to the first winter storm of the season.

"There was room for improvement in how its resources were deployed prior to and during the storm event," the Transportation Ministry said in an email to CBC.

The ministry also noted that communication on DriveBC was lacking.

"I'd like the province to make sure that when it hands out a contract to these road maintenance people that it has not only the equipment, but the people to drive the equipment," MacDonald said.

With files from Shelley Joyce