5 Ways We Tackle Spring Cleaning on BC Highways

It’s been a long winter, and the white stuff is still on the ground in some parts of the province. But take heart, we’re working our way into spring highway maintenance. Here’s our maintenance contractor “to do” list (not much different than your spring cleaning checklist):

Spring Transportation To-Do’s

Sweep and Wash Roads… Check! All that sand and salt we lay down during the winter has to be cleared to help keep you moving smoothly. Our maintenance contractors sweep an average of 56,000 km of road each year – that’s about enough road to cover four and a half round trips between Vancouver and Charlottetown, PEI.

Sweeping can create dust, so our maintenance contractors apply water to keep dust down, maintaining visibility. Sweepers travel at about 50 km/h, so there may be significant gaps between the advanced warning signs and when you encounter the actual sweeper (since they can cover long distances). Stay alert for sweepers ahead, watch for the flashing lights on the sweeper unit, and never attempt to pass on the right. And please be patient — on narrow, two-lane segments, sweeper operators will often pull off to the side to allow passing when there is enough space.

Here’s a quick video showing what a difference a sweep and a wash can make to highways after a long winter.

Sweep and Wash Bridges… Check! Bridges are a big part of BC highways, and so it makes sense that our spring cleaning checklist also includes annual bridge cleaning. Bridges take a beating with anti-icing and winter abrasives every winter.

We start by removing dust and debris, moving it toward the end of the bridge, which prevents it from entering below waterways. When it’s time to wash, we block the deck drains to prevent water from falling below, and spray the bridge using a tanker truck and power washers. By directing the water toward the bridge approaches (away from the river, stream, etc.), it can be filtered by surrounding earth and vegetation. Interested in learning more about best practices for bridge washing? Take a look.

Enforce Seasonal Load Restrictions for Heavy Vehicles… Check! As temperatures begin to rise, roads start to weaken. Thawing releases water in the road, which can’t drain efficiently if the surrounding soil remains frozen. This reduces the road’s ability to support heavy loads.

When load restrictions are in place, drivers of long haul transports, logging trucks and heavy equipment transports may be required to reduce the load they would normally plan to carry on a route. In some cases, there may be an alternate route without load restrictions. Learn more about how heavy loads can damage spring roads.

Brushing those trees and shrubs… Check! As spring kicks in, trees and shrubs start growing; if left unchecked, they can quickly take over our roadsides. So we begin our annual routine of mowing, chopping and chipping to keep things clear. We’re not just doing this for cosmetic reasons; it’s about safety.

Out-of-control brush can make it difficult for drivers to see the road ahead. It can also hide road signage. Here are a few more reasons to bolster our highway brushing in spring:

  • Keep trees from “keying” your vehicles – we can prevent vehicle damage by cutting tree limbs growing too close to the roadway
  • Allow space for vehicles to pull over in case of emergency
  • Reduce fire hazards and lower the chance of flooding by keeping ditches and drains free of debris
  • Control invasive weeds that can quickly spread if left alone

Prepare for rising water levels… Check! You may have heard us talk about freshet (snow melt typically occurring from April to July). Now that it’s spring, we’re getting ready to protect your highways and bridges from increased water levels. We’re stockpiling sandbags and rip rap, just in case, in an effort to keep you safe and dry. Learn more about our role in keeping floodwaters at bay.

Now that you know our approach to spring cleaning, tell us… where do you want to travel (once all your spring cleaning is finished, of course) this spring/summer?

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Page 1 of 36 comments on “5 Ways We Tackle Spring Cleaning on BC Highways”

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  1. To whom it may concern,

    I am interested in what the process is to have a dead or Hazardous tree taken down next to the roadway?
    I am on the council of a Bare Land Strata on the Sunshine Coast in BC. and have been asked to find out the process.
    Does an arborist need to be hired?
    Can we just take it down? Is there a direct line or link that allows easy access to express our concerns?

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Warmest Regards,
    Kathy Henry

    • Hi Kathy, thanks for checking in with us about removal of a hazardous tree along a provincial roadway. Please direct your concern to Capilano Highway Services Company at 1 800 665-3135 or email: info@capilanohighways.ca They are the contractor responsible for highway maintenance in your area. Wishing you safe travels wherever you go!

  2. I have been noticing a lot of loose debris like big rocks in the middle of the roadway. Ladner Trunk on ramp getting on to the highway 99. Construction is happening in the areas with trucks coming in and out.

  3. Hello, just wondering when you will start spring cleaning on HWY 3 from Hope to Osoyoos? Driving up end of April and wondering if I could take my motorcycle as I don’t want to get sand blasted!
    Thanks for all you do!

    • Hi again Bernie – our area manager has just let us know that, based on the current schedule (and barring any unexpected breakdowns of equipment, etc., sweeping on this section of Highway 3 should be completed by the end of April. We hope that this information is helpful.

  4. When does this road cleaning start each year?

    It’s mid-March and with the warming weather I’ve already started riding my motorcycle for the season, but there’s a lot of dirt and gravel on the roads.

    You do a great job in my area but there are some areas in the transition between the highway and village (Ashcroft) roads that get missed, specifically the intersections before and after the bridge.

    Thanks for keeping the roads clean!

  5. On my drive today through Chilliwack and Abbotsford on the No.1 Hwy I was amazed and disgusted at the amount of litter and garbage on the highway.
    Office chairs, large plastic tarps even a table only to name a few.
    To add insult to injury I only seen 1 highway maintenance truck on the 80 kilometer or so stretch with the worker asleep in the driver seat.
    Did not see any clean up crews of any kind and its obvious with the amount of litter that nothing is being done.
    There are so many types of people that could be mobilized to do this work, Community service people, people in drug rehabilitation programs, people that are struggling to find work in their own field, the list goes on.
    Instead the government pay contractors that are either too lazy or too bogged down with union rules to get the work done.
    This rant is probably in the wrong place so could I please have the necessary email addresses.
    Thank you.

  6. I have two trees which are entangled in the telephone wires and they are leaning dangerously on our fence. No one is willing to help us, yet the trees are on the hwy and have overgrown into our backyard!

    Located in Okanagan Falls

    • Hello Mary – thanks for connecting with us here. Please reach out directly to our local area office staff to discuss. The contact information for your area is:
      Penticton Area
      102 Industrial Place
      Penticton, BC V2A 7C8
      Telephone: 250 490-8200

  7. I live in Qualicum Beach and there are 2 tall dead fir trees on the road allowance in front of our property. They are potentially very dangerous as they could fall on the road, a vehicle, walkers or power lines, especially anytime the SE wind blows. Please tell me who to contact to deal with this situation. Thank you

  8. How do I request DRM or; MOT Williams Lake to remove hazardous, overhanging dead trees?
    they are in danger of falling across Charlie Road or; falling downhill damaging fences and a danger on my side of the fence where I am working?
    Also with spring thaw there is an annual problem with drainage and poor ditching causing water to overflow across driving surface. lack of gravel is evident.
    Now is a good time to inspect it- next three days?
    who do I call about frozen culverts on Spokin Lake rd?

    • Hi Christina,

      We only remove trees on the right of way and only when they are considered dangerous to the traveling public and or private property.
      We try to leave the dead tree in its natural environment and the general public is not allowed to take out the tree due to the liability and risk to the ministry if they hurt themselves or others. If we take out a number of trees for a project we work with Forests, Lands and Natural Resources to coordinate, as they own the rights to the timber and not us. Make sense? Let us know if you have any other questions.

  9. I am a resident of Campbell River, BC on Vancouver Island and regularly use the Inland Hwy. for cycling. This season, however, the Inland Hwy. has been difficult for riding as the shoulders of the highway have excessive gravel, wood debris from logging trucks and other debris. The areas in need of most attention are from Campbell River to the intersection at Cranberry Lane (gravel, rock and logging trucks are leaving a lot of debris in the shoulders). I have had at least a dozen flat tires this season from the poor shoulder conditions on the Inland Hwy. Shoulders close to bridge decks on the Inland Hwy. are also in poor condition from debris.

  10. I was happy to note that the ministry of transportation does ‘spring cleaning’ of our highways. Unfortunately, our Abbotsford highway connector, Hwy 1 to Mission, has been sadly neglected for some time now. No sweeper has been along this route! The debris on the off and on ramps from Old Clayburn Rd to Hwy 11 is absolutely inundated with garbage. Living in this location, I use this route frequently and I find the litter offensive. I have travelled to a multitude of countries including third world and this highway is looking now more like some of those third world countries! Who is responsible for the cleanliness of this part of our community?

  11. The Editor,

    Thanks for the explanation of how road maintenanance contractors help provide safer travel conditions during Spring. Good info; good work!

    How does one go about getting contractors to change dangerous conditions at intersections with main highways, like the ones North of Clinton, B.C.?

    I’ve spoken to the Supervisor and the local RCMP Detachment Commander without results.

    Please advise.

    Ramblin’ Ryan Lake
    Clinton, B.C.

    • Hello Ryan,

      To clarify, did you speak with the supervisor of the maintenance contractor? You could follow up with our closest ministry office:

      100 Mile House Area
      300 South Cariboo Highway
      P.O. Box 1600
      100 Mile House, BC V0K 2E0
      Telephone: 250 395-7832
      Fax: 250 395-6062

  12. Now what about throwing down a fresh layer of “paint”? Highway markings in several areas definitely need re-doing this spring as a recent banzai run to Princeton shows. Highway 3 need a bit of love…can it get it? 🙂

    • Hi Ken,

      Yes, it’s almost line painting season (and Highway 3 around Manning Park is on our to do list) – if only we could get the “spring” weather to co-operate!

      • “Spring” made a brief appearance last week…but it ran away! What I wouldn’t give for a nice long stretch of nice weather…tour the southern interior etc. I know the Okanagan Valley is spectacular when it’s sunny and warm out!

          • Sadly it appears some flooding is already happening with more forecast in the near future. If it’s not one thing it’s another lately. Wish all the best to those filling and placing sandbags and doing what they can to mitigate damage!