Understanding Highway Maintenance on Vancouver Island

EMCON faces weather challenges

From Port Hardy on the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the extreme west coast conditions of Ucluelet and Tofino, you will find ocean, rain, rushing rivers, sunshine, dense rainforest, snow – even glaciers! The island has it all. Along with such a diverse landscape comes a broad range of road and maintenance issues. Let’s take a closer look at the ways our maintenance contractors help to keep our highways safe for the motorists who travel on them.

The ministry’s maintenance contractors cover three service areas on Vancouver Island, dealing with an incredible variety of challenges to keep island highways running safely and smoothly. Specializing in highway maintenance, paving, bridge construction and equipment hauling, Emcon Services, patrols and maintains roads across the south island including a portion of the Trans-Canada Highway 1. Our contractor for the central and northern part of Vancouver Island is Mainroad. This contractor provides maintenance for Highway 4 across the island through Port Alberni and onto Tofino and Ucluelet, Highway 28 to Gold River and further west, and Highway 19 all the way up to the northern end of Vancouver Island

Heavy rain on Vancouver Island Highway

When Old Man Winter hits the island, driving conditions here are among the toughest in the province because the snowfall is heavy and wet. They also vary greatly, based on elevation, like on the road to Mount Washington Ski Resort. This makes road maintenance challenging at the best of times. If you have visited our YouTube channel, you have probably seen our video “Say Hello to the Tow Plow“, which now has more than two million views! This special piece of equipment is actually two plows in one and allows one truck and operator to do the equivalent of two passes in a single trip. This means winter roads are cleared twice as fast – a real bonus when you have a lot of ground to cover.

During the spring, when precipitation over Vancouver Island is not falling in the form of wet and heavy snow, it is probably falling as rain, rain and more rain – which means maintenance contractors here must also be specialists in flood response and dealing with mudslides that can cover roads.

Resurfacing and repaving Island Highways

Snow and rain take their toll on pavement, making the resurfacing and repair of island highways a real priority. This includes the roadways of some of the Gulf Islands, such as Denman, Hornby, Quadra, Gabriola, Lasqueti and Cortez.

So if you live on Vancouver Island, or you are visiting and see a maintenance contractor hard at work on those island roads, say hello!

Page 1 of 23 comments on “Understanding Highway Maintenance on Vancouver Island”

Leave a Comment

    • Hi Gord,

      Thanks for connecting with us here. Is there somewhere specifically along these routes that you are concerned about?

  1. Hi. I visit north VI several times a year and frequently in the ice and snow season. I have always been impressed with th maintenance of the highway so thank you for that! My question is that I saw what looked like a sander plow pre-treating the dry pavement with a liquid spray during the day. Can you please tell me what the product is and the idea behind it?
    Thank you,

    • Hi Martin – thanks for the positive feedback. We will share it forward with the area manager and confirm the identity of the liquid application for you. Stay tuned.

  2. I have tried to get a response to my question of tree and brush removal in a ditch beside my property. The ditch needs to have the trees removed as they could affect the road with their roots and also plug the ditch. Property is located in Saltair – SeaSide Woods Estates, Stata Lot 22. South side of Clifcoe Road just before the cul-du-sac.

    Thank you.

    • Hello,

      Could you please contact Stuart Johnson, our Area Manager for Roads in the area. His phone number is 250-751-3270.


  3. I would like to contact the department in charge of traffic lights. A new set of lights at the corner of Johnston Rd and highway 19a. I have some questions about the programming and priority settings. If you could let me know who to direct my inquires to, it would be appreciated.

    Thank you

    Greg Gamble

    • Hello Greg,

      Please connect with our Central Island Operations Manager to start with. His name is Johnathan Tille (Johnathan.Tillie@gov.bc.ca)