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.

Join the discussion

Leave a Comment