Winter weather can create challenging driving conditions for all drivers, especially on mountain passes like the Sea to Sky and the Coquihalla.
Improving safety on highways and roads is the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s top priority. The ministry has made many changes to make B.C. highways safer and more reliable during the 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, 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 three-peaked mountain/snowflake symbol or the mud and snow (M+S) designation, with a minimum tread depth of 3.5 millimeters.
- the No Trucks in the Left Lane pilot on the Coquihalla’s Snowshed Hill, which restricts commercial vehicles from using the far-left lane. This will allow for better traffic flow (including emergency vehicles) and plowing operations, as well as reducing the time it takes to get people moving after a full closure.
Changes to B.C. highway maintenance contracts:
New maintenance contracts have been implemented. Of the 28 service areas in B.C., 27 are being maintained under the new agreement. The other service area, 11-East Kootenay, will be under the new Round 6 specifications when the current agreement expires on Aug. 31, 2023.
The new maintenance contract requires contractors to 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 -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 four hours);
- increasing the patrol frequency to four hours in anticipation of a weather event coming (previously 24 hours);
- requiring the use of 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.