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!

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

Leave a Reply to John Lemond Cancel reply

  1. There is much tree debri on 19a between Buckley bay and courtenay, I had to pull a large branch off hwy 19a just north of the pull out of Garvin Rd, it looks like numerous trees have either broken or have been cut, on the ocean side and are blowing onto the hwy, is there a plan to clean this stretch up??

    • Hi Judy,

      Our maintenance contractors, Emcon Services, patrol this as part of their daily routine, but if you see something that causes you concern, you can call them directly at: 1-866-353-3136. We will also share this concern forward with our local area manager for follow up. Thanks for connecting with us here.

  2. Recently I drove from Nanaimo to Comox, and back again that same day. As I travelled back to Nanaimo, heading south on the Inland highway, I encountered a section of the right hand lane nearing Rosewall Creek, where is one big patch after another. When you are traveling at highway speed and hitting those patches one after another, your car is going “Thump, thump, thump” over those bumps. I chose to drive in the left lane to avoid them. Is it possible to re-pave that section so it is a smooth road?

    Thank you.

    • Hello Jeanette and thanks for connecting with us here. We are aware of this rough patch job and did follow up with the maintenance contractor in this regards to it. They are planning on smoothing over the section in the early spring when weather allows.

  3. Asfar as I’m concerned -You do a lousy job of maintaining the roads. Not only are potholes not filled quickly but are left for months. Winter of 2016 /2017 driving on the highway at night in the rain there was alarge deep pothole that youcouldn’t see till you were on top of it . Hit the darn thing and broke a strut in my car . Cost to me ove r 800.00 and that pot hole was there for months. AT Turner Rd where you cross the highway -there are two potholes that have been there since last winter – but no one bothered to fix them – I take care of my car , crawl over speed bumps and to have your shoddy workmanship damage my car -not to mention the chance of an accident should someone swerve to miss these big holes in our roads-is unacceptable amd should my car be damaged again by pot holes -I will sue your butts off for failing to keep the roads we drive on safe for both bycclists and car drivers.

  4. I’m in Campbell River heading to Port Hardy Tomorrow. It snowed yesterday and then froze at night. It’s melting a bit now in the sun but it will freeze again tonight. I’m wondering if the slush will be plowed on highway 19 from Campbell River to port hardy. I think it is especially dangerous to allow slush to stay on the highway and then freeze at night. I’m a little concerned about my drive tomorrow, as I have to leave early in the morning. Thanks

    • Hello Eli and thank you for connecting with us here about your concerns. Our maintenance contractors on the north island work around the clock during inclement weather to ensure the safety of the travelling public. If you noticed any issues that caused you concern during your trip – you can call them directly:

      Emcon Services Inc.

  5. lately lots of household is dumped on the road edge of Ackerman Road(off Church Road – PARKSVILLE including lots fast food paper items INTO the ditches, very disturbing , over the last few years I have cleaned up now very frustrated

  6. I would like to know if Dorothy Rd and David Rd north of Union bay off Highway 19A will be plowed and sanded. I have noticed all side roads off highway 19 A south of Royston and north of Union Bay with the exception of Dorothy and David Rd have been plowed and sanded.


  7. Crofton Road, along with a portion of Mt. Sicker rd and Chemainus road are considered highway maintained by Mainroad. I am curious as these extremely high-traffic industrial, residential and ferry routes have rapidly been crumbling apart and have huge dips/dives everywhere, amongst many other dangerous issues. How much longer will it be until these roads are safely resurfaced?

    • Hi Patricia,

      We spoke with the local area manager who told us that Crofton Road, Mt. Sicker and Westholme Road (Chemanius Road) are high on our priority list for rehabilitation and resurfacing. We need to prioritize our side road paving based on our available funding, but it is fair to say that Crofton is one of the highest on our list. Hope that this helps.

  8. I need to have the ditch on Highway 4A in front of the business I manage cleaned of small trees and debris it is very unsightly and needs to be done or larger issues will arise. In fact all the ditches along 4A from Church Road up to Cathedral Grove are in a very sorry state. Please let me know who to call.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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