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

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?

Page 1 of 30 comments on “5 Ways We Tackle Spring Cleaning on BC Highways”

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  1. 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?

    • Hello Anna,

      Please connect with our maintenance contractor in the area directly.

      Emil Anderson Maintenance Company

      Thank you!

    • The people who throw garbage out the window are to blame for the messes you describe. If that can be stopped there would be no problem.

  2. Has the Duffy Lake Road been swept? I have a sports car and enjoy the drive but don’t want to “sand blast” my car. Thanks

  3. 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

  4. 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!

        • While we are longing for nicer weather, we hope it doesn’t get too hot too quickly, as that might mean flooding and a delay to those nice road trips!

          • 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!