Everything You Need to Know about East Kootenay Highway Winter Maintenance Specifications

MEKMainroad, our maintenance contractor in the East Kootenay service area, works hard every day to keep local highways safe and traffic moving smoothly. Because the area is so geographically diverse, they can face any number of unique challenges where highway maintenance is concerned, especially during winter. In order to make sure they understand exactly what is expected of them in their day to day operations, we outline our maintenance requirements of them in great detail. We recently updated our East Kootenay (Service Area 11) winter maintenance requirements and wanted to share some of our key expectations with you.

It All Starts with Winter Highway Classification

BC highways are classified A, B, C, D & E and are maintained in that order. Winter highway classifications are based on traffic volumes and function. A’s are the first priority; followed by B’s and C’s… you get the idea.

  • Class “A” highways are high volume routes with over 5,000 winter average daily traffic counts and may include high volume commuter routes through mountain passes.
  • Class “B” highways are all other routes with winter average daily traffic volumes between 1,000 and 5,000 vehicles.
  • Class “C” routes are all school bus routes and commercial routes up to 1,000 winter average daily traffic.
  • Class “D” routes are rural subdivision routes.
  • Class “E” routes are irregularly maintained routes
  • Class “F” are not maintained or not open in the winter.

A great example of an “A” in the East Kootenay area is Highway 3 Cranbrook to the BC/AB Border. A main highway or “B” is Highway 93/95 Cranbrook to Canal Flats. “C” routes are other roads that are neither A nor B, but include important roads like school bus routes. “D” and “E” are the roads generally less travelled.

If a route becomes more popular or sees an increase in commercial traffic, we may upgrade its classification and increase highway operations on that route, as we recently did on Highway 3, when we changed the route between Cranbrook to Fernie to an “A”. It’s all about safety. Changes like this mean an increase in the maintenance commitment, resulting in more frequent patrols and quicker response times, and more plowing, snow removal, and salt and sand applications, always a good thing when we see winter take hold.

Here are some of the other key expectations we have of our contractor in the East Kootenay area:

Patrol Frequencies
Highway patrol frequencies are based on highway classifications.  Patrol vehicles must be equipped to remove snow and provide traction restoration during a weather event or prior to occurring, either forecasted or anticipated slippery or freeze-thaw situations.

Patrol frequencies

Maximum Allowable Accumulation

Basically this is the maximum amount of snow allowed to accumulate on the highway surface during a weather event. A highway with an “A” classification is allowed up to 4 cm during a weather event, while an “E” is allowed up to 25cm. Class D roads (rural subdivision roads) are required to be plowed within 3 days of the end of the weather event or as required during to stay below the maximum allowable accumulation.

Max Accumulation





Highway Snow Removal
Highways are completed in a priority sequence with snow removal beginning on higher classification main highways.  Rural side roads are completed once snow removal is completed on main highways or as required to remain within the provincial standard for maximum accumulation. The contractor must deploy resources to apply winter abrasives and/or anti-icing chemicals in advance of forecasted or anticipated weather events to prevent the development of slippery conditions.  Commencement of snow removal from highways must be in place once there is 3 cm of snow accumulation on the highway surface.  Snow removal must be continuous through the weather event and ensure all highways remain below the provincial maximum allowable accumulations in the table above.

Response Time Frames for Restoring Traction:

  • These must be completed in a priority sequence, with shorter response times on higher class highways.
  • The contractor must restore traction within the response times below from when they detect slippery conditions while patrolling or as reported to the contractor by general public.
  • Restoring traction will be completed by either applying winter abrasives on compact sections when pavement temperatures are below -9° or winter chemicals to compact sections to melt snow and ice when pavement temperatures are above -9°C.

Completion of Snow Removal
The following table shows how long we allow the remaining snow to sit on the road after a weather event. After the weather event is over, compact snow removal will continue to provide bare pavement on Class “A”, “B” and “C” routes (provided pavement temperatures are warmer than -9°C).  If pavement temperatures remain colder than -9°C within the outlined time frames – the compact snow can remain until pavement temperatures are -9° and warming.

response time


Completion of removal

During storms, our maintenance contractors put their equipment into action to make sure that our highways remain safe. They also continuously update road conditions on DriveBC, helping you know before you go. They review their performance after a storm, in order to provide the best service possible in the next bout of nasty weather.

Questions or concerns?
Mainroad East Kootenay and the ministry take the safety of the travelling public very seriously. If you come across a highway situation in Service Area 11 requiring maintenance response, please call 1-800-665-4929 to report the condition and location.  An operator is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week who can forward the information to maintenance operators on shift to respond.

Do you have any other questions about winter highway maintenance in the East Kootenay’s or anywhere else in the province? Let us know in the comments below.

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Page 1 of 20 comments on “Everything You Need to Know about East Kootenay Highway Winter Maintenance Specifications”

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  1. Is there anywhere a person can come and grab some highway salt preferably with calcium in a few pails for a driveway?
    I live by Spillimacheen
    Thanks for any information

  2. Is it possible to update the condition of Hwy 93 (Radium to TCH) more often? As there are no cameras (other than at each end) it’s a crap shoot driving this road as conditions change so much through the 93 km length. I’ve been driving it when no condition information was available and the cameras looked ok yet there was a major snowstorm just after Simpson Crossing. With the on/off closures of the TCH next year this will become even more important.


  3. good morning
    plow came past my house last night, no salt or sand was put down, neighbor is
    still parked on my property as they cant get up hill, sheer ice underneath, these are
    retired people who are in their 80’s, my address is 6960 customs road kingsgate, b.c
    salt or sand should be put down.

    • Hello Sue,

      Thanks for connecting with us here and letting us know that the plow did come by. Please don’t hesitate to contact the maintenance contractor directly with your concerns as well. Their call system is logged and monitored by ministry staff as well. Here is their contact information: Mainroad Hotline East Kootenay
      24 Hour Hotline
      Email: eastkootenay@mainroad.ca

  4. good morning,
    what class is customs road kingsgate , b.c, classified as? I have neighbors parking on my property as they cant get up their road, as it is sheer ice underneath it, as little salt or sand would sure be appreciated.


  5. What is the road classification for green road. And when the next scheduled Plowing. Just trying to determine if it is safe to travel.

    • Hi Jim,

      Best to contact the maintenance contractor directly on this one, if you haven’t already. Mainroad East Kootenay can be reached 24/7 at +1 800-665-4929.

  6. Is Monroe Lake Ave. under the same classification as Monroe Lake Rd? It is 1/2 km. long, and would take two minutes to turn in with a plow, and drive right back out again on the same route.
    Has not been one plow on it this winter, except the one owned by the people that live up that road. Otherwise, they would not be able to get out of their place. That does not seem to be in line with the any of the above charts.

    • Hi Ron,

      We shared your concern with one of our ministry staffers in the area who confirmed that Monroe Lake Road is a Class D and that we don’t have a road named Monroe Lake Avenue in our inventory but he suspects you might be referring to the Monroe Lake Access, which is an Class F. Class F is not maintained in the winter. He asked for you to call the district office at 250-426-1500 and ask for Rob Kaleka to discuss. Rob is the area manager, roads for the Cranbrook/Kimberley/Yahk area. Hope that this helps.

  7. Could you please advise what classification Monroe Lake road falls under. Please note we have a 12% grade leading up to residential area and a transfer station with recycle bins that are emptied daily. The last plow we saw was on December 26th (I called in because some residents could not get up the hill). The hill has been snow covered again for days and very difficult to drive on…. how much longer is a reasonable wait time for us? It has been sunny and clear all day.I also understand we are now serviced by the Yahk maintenance crew instead of Cranbrook. Seems since this restructure we are waiting ever longer to have this steep hill on our road looked after.

    • Hello Linda,

      We shared your comment forward with the local area office and here is the information they shared back with us. Monroe Lake Road is a Class D road. It should be patrolled (plowed and sanded) at least every 12 hours during a winter snowfall or to an increased frequency to keep snow accumulation below 15 cm. It is required to be patrolled within 3 days of the end of snowfall to ensure any residual loose snow that remains, below 15 cm, is removed and to provide a smooth compact surface.

      Our snowfall ended on evening of Dec 26/morning of Dec 27 with localized minor snow accumulations on Dec 28-30 of below our snow removal trigger of 3 cm. If a plow was there on the 26, it appears as though the road was kept below 15 cm as the snowfall on Dec 26 was only 12 cm. This was collected at our Moyie Road Weather Information System site across the lake from Monroe Lake Road.

      Once the snowfall ends, the patrol frequency during weather events, which are triggered at 3 cm accumulation, is 14 days. If the residents experience slippery sections they should notify MEK at 1-800-665-4929. The response time to patrol and provide sand and plow to restore traction on Class D with a hill greater than 5% when reported is 4 hours. Hope that this helps.

  8. To Whom it May Concern:

    I am very discouraged with your letter to Lorne, and am very interested to know how you can say this, after the no. of deaths and accidents in the East Kootenays. Our highways are ice and black ice. This was said by Mr. Bennett and the Cranbrook RCMP. Our highways are not even close to being maintained. There was a question whether we should call a “State of Emergency a few hrs back from a group that started in Cranbrook, B.C. on Facebook. People have said the highways are “TREACHEROUS”. Why isnt Mr. Bennett or Mainroads caring about peoples lives? I know it is against the law to take someones life, so should be said for the company and the Government.

    • Hello,

      Thank you for connecting with us here and sharing your concern. We shared your comment forward with the local area office and they informed us that the BC RCMP have stated there have been sections of black ice on the highways in this area, but overall that the conditions are good and driver behaviour is the dominant cause of these incidents.

      Black ice can occur on any road surface, bare or snow covered, when the dew point temperature rises to the road temperature or above. This may occur between the contractor’s required patrol frequencies. While our winter maintenance specifications don’t require bare, ice free at all times, the contractor is required to apply winter abrasives/chemicals while on patrol to minimize the development of slippery conditions.

      If the general public encounter slippery conditions, we encourage them to notify the contractor directly at 1-800-665-4929 with details of the time and location so a maintenance vehicle can be dispatched to respond when between the patrol frequency. This number is available on a 24/7 basis. We hope that this helps.

  9. When the B.C. government closed the Kimberley Hospital the maintenance of the road between kimberley and Cranbrook in winter was a main concern. We were assured that it would be well maintained. Up until this year it has been for the most part. However, since Mainroad closed their Kimberley Facility and everything is run out of Cranbrook the highway between Cranbrook and Kimberley has not been maintained to the same standard as previously. There is more to consider than just traffic volume. People lives are at stake in the case of an emergency.

    • Hello Lorne,

      Thank you for your comment and for connecting with us here. We shared your comment with the local area manager and they informed us that Hwy 95A from Cranbrook to Kimberley is a Class A highway – the highest class and priority. With new maintenance contract, the patrol frequency for plowing and providing traction on class A has been increased to 90 minutes during a weather event (it was 4 hours in the previous specifications).

      Ministry staff routinely monitor road conditions prior/during/after weather events and can confirm that Hwy 95A maintenance continues to meet MOTI specifications. We have over 300 monitoring records for the Cranbrook/Kimberley yard area, and 94% exceed or meet specifications.
      If you do encounter slippery conditions or locations requiring a response, please call MEK 24/7 communications centre at 1-800-665-4929 right away. We hope that this helps.