Winter weather can create challenging driving conditions for all motorists, especially on mountain passes like the Sea to Sky and the Coquihalla.
Improving safety on highways and roads is the ministry’s top priority. The ministry is taking action on a number of changes ahead of winter 2018-2019, to make B.C. highways safer and more reliable during winter months, including:
- Stricter commercial vehicle chain-up requirements, including higher fines for commercial vehicles not carrying chains or not chaining up when required.
- Enhanced road-maintenance contractor monitoring and auditing, and leveraging new tools and technology, like road weather stations, variable speed limit systems and GPS tracking of snow plows.
- Extending winter tire and chain regulations on select highways, including mountain passes and rural routes in high snowfall areas, from Oct. 1 to April 30 (instead of March 31), to account for early-spring snowfall. Winter tires are defined as those labelled with either the 3-peaked mountain/snowflake symbol, or the mud and snow (M+S) designation, with a minimum tread depth of 3.5 millimeters.
Changes to B.C. highway-maintenance contracts:
Twenty-six of the 28 service areas in B.C. are up for renewal in 2018 and 2019. As new maintenance contracts are signed and implemented, contractors will adhere to improved measures that require a more proactive approach to winter maintenance. These changes include:
- Returning Class A highways to bare pavement within 24 hours of a winter weather event ending (previously 48 hours), at temperatures of warmer than minus 9 degrees, when de-icing chemical use is effective.
- Increasing patrol frequency to 90 minutes on a Class A highway like the Sea to Sky during a snow storm (previously 4 hours).
- When a weather event is forecasted to occur, increasing the patrol frequency to 4 hours in anticipation of the weather event coming (previously 24 hours).
- Requiring the use remote weather-information systems to forecast when a weather event will occur, and to spread anti-icing chemicals prior to the weather event.
- The ministry’s maintenance contractors maintain nearly 47,000 kilometres of road and 2,800 bridges in some of the most challenging terrain in Canada.
- Crews apply approximately one million tonnes of winter abrasives and 100,000 tonnes of salt to highways annually, provincewide.
- The Coquihalla summit had a total snowfall of 830 centimetres from Oct. 1, 2017, to the end of February 2018 — 114% higher than the 10-year average.
- Kootenay Pass had a highest ever recorded snowfall of 1,012 centimetres from Oct. 1, 2017 to the end of February 2018 — 148% higher than the 10-year average.