Now that the dust has settled (and been swept, of course!) on most* of the BC highway maintenance contract renewal process, let’s review the new specifications and the maintenance contractors that are taking them on. * The last remaining contract renewal – Service Area 20 (Robson) – goes to tender mid-2020.
Good news: the new BC highway maintenance contracts for all service areas require higher standards and a more proactive approach to severe weather.
Before we explore the changes, it’s important for readers to understand the different highway classifications. To learn more, read our blog: The ABCs of Winter Highway Classification and Maintenance.
Here are some notable improvements in the new contracts, at a glance:
A bit more detail on a few of these:
Back to Bare Pavement After a Storm
Class A highways (think major routes such as the Trans-Canada and Coquihalla) must be returned to bare pavement within 24 hours of a winter weather event ending at temperatures of -9 C or warmer (during colder temperatures, deicing material can become less effective). The previous standard was 48 hours.
Other classes received improvements, too; for example, Class B roads went from three days to 36 hours, and Class C roads tightened up from seven days to 48 hours.
We should note: the previous specifications did not differentiate between pavement temperatures below and at/above -9 C.
In Consideration of Compact
An entirely new specification centres around “compact,” which is defined as “snow, slush or ice that has been compressed to form a solid mass.” When low temperatures lead to compact on the road surface, maintenance contractors must keep it smooth and under 40 mm in thickness. If pavement temperatures remain colder than -9 C, the compact can remain until pavement temperatures are -9 C and warming.
How Much Snow is Too Much?
For routine winter maintenance, there is a maximum amount of snow that can be on the highway before it must be cleared. Maintenance contractors must remove winter accumulations from travelled lanes as follows:
The previous contracts had separate patrol standards for winter classifications, which are classified by letter (“A” being highest priority), and summer classifications, which are classified by number (1+2 being highest priority). In the new contracts, year-round patrol frequencies are based on the summer classification and adjusted based on weather conditions.
We increased patrol frequency to 90 minutes on Class 1+2 highways during weather events. The previous standard for Class A highways was four hours.
When a weather event is forecasted, patrol frequency is increased to four hours. The previous standard was 24 hours.
A More Proactive Approach
Of course, safety patrolling is just one way our contractors monitor and evaluate highway surface temperatures and conditions. Other methods include consulting Road Weather Information System (RWIS) information and weather forecasts in order to anticipate weather events. Contractors are required to use this information to be more proactive, mobilizing equipment and spreading anti-icing chemicals before expected poor winter road conditions hit – a new requirement.
Where’s that Plow?
We can keep better track of contractors now that maintenance equipment such as plow trucks, patrol vehicles and graders are required to have Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) tracking, which ministry staff has access to.
Clearing the Way for Bikes
Let us break away from winter maintenance for a sec. Cycling has exploded as a regular mode of transportation since the previous maintenance contracts were created. That’s why the new contracts include improved sweeping requirements for designated cycling paths.
Communication is Key
If you use social media, you may have engaged with our maintenance contractors online. Their social presence has grown now that the new contracts require each contractor to be active on at least two social media platforms, giving you more ways to connect – whether it’s reporting a highway problem or getting behind the scenes insights into road conditions and maintenance work being done.
Consult our maintenance contractor contact list to view their corresponding social media accounts.
Introducing… Your Highway Maintenance Contractors
The maintenance contractor changed in 11 of the new contracts. In some cases, a contractor swapped service areas with another. Here’s how the shuffle looks at this point:
- SA01 (South Island): EMCON Services (new, replaced Mainroad)
- SA02 (Central Island): Mainroad Mid-Island Contracting (new, replaced EMCON)
- SA03 (North Island): Mainroad North Island Contracting (new, replaced EMCON)
- SA04 (Howe Sound): Miller Capilano Highway Services (new, replaced Mainroad)
- SA05 (Sunshine Coast): Capilano Highway Services Company (had previous contract)
- SA06 (Lower Mainland): Mainroad Lower Mainland Contracting (had previous contract)
- SA07 (Fraser Valley): Emil Anderson Maintenance Co. Ltd (had previous contract)
- SA08 (South Okanagan): AIM Roads Inc. (new, replaced Argo Road Maintenance)
- SA09 (Kootenay Boundary): Yellowhead Road & Bridge Kootenay Boundary (new, replaced EMCON)
- SA10 (Central Kootenay): Yellowhead Road & Bridge Kootenay (had previous contract)
- SA11 (East Kootenay): Mainroad East Kootenay (had previous contract)
- SA12 (Selkirk): EMCON Services (had previous contract)
- SA13 (Okanagan Shuswap): Acciona Road Maintenance (new, replaced JPW Road and Bridge Maintenance)
- SA14 (Nicola): YRB (new, replaced VSA)
- SA15 (Thompson): Argo Road Maintenance Thompson (had previous contract)
- SA16 (South Cariboo): Dawson Road Maintenance (formerly known as Interior Roads)
- SA17 (Central Cariboo): Dawson Road Maintenance (formerly known as Interior Roads)
- SA18 (North Cariboo): EMCON Services (had previous contract)
- SA19 (Fort George): Yellowhead Road & Bridge Fort George (had previous contract)
- SA20 (Robson): Lakes District Maintenance (to tender mid-2020)
- SA21 (South Peace): Argo Road Maintenance (new, replaced Caribou Road Services)
- SA22 (North Peace): Dawson Road Maintenance (new, replaced Yellowhead Road & Bridge)
- SA23 (Nechako): Yellowhead Road & Bridge (had previous contract)
- SA24 (Lakes): Lakes District Maintenance (had previous contract)
- SA25 (Bulkley/Nass): Dawson Road Maintenance (new, replaced Billabong)
- SA26 (Skeena): Emil Anderson Maintenance Co. (assumed contract from Nechako Northcoast Construction, on July 27, 2020)
- SA27 (North Coast): O’Brien Road & Bridge Maintenance (had previous contract)
- SA28 (Stikine): Lakes District Maintenance (had previous contract)
More details about the highway maintenance contracts – value, start and end dates – can be found here.
And if you really want to get in depth, feel free to peruse all the highway maintenance specifications here. It’s especially helpful because it provides definitions for all key terms, such as “weather event.”
Got a winter maintenance question for us? Good chance it’s answered in our blog post Your Most Popular BC Winter Maintenance Questions, Answered. If not, you’re welcome to connect with us in the comments section below.