Facebook group encourages residents to voice concerns about local highway maintenance

by Andrew Bennett on 22 Mar 2012    http://rosslandtelegraph.com

Facebook group encourages residents to voice concerns about local highway maintenance

Rosslander Tammy McLean recently started the Facebook event, “Kootenay Citizens for Better Highway Maintenance” to encourage local residents to express their opinion about the state of highways maintenance. Comments have been rolling in.

Taryn Marchi, who does “casual work” at KBRH wrote, “Due to the road conditions this year I have not taken a single shift in Trail because I never know if the roads are going to be drivable in the morning, which is definitely limiting my ability to bring in some extra income. I wish that [maintenance contractors] YRB and Emcon would realize that not only are they putting peoples lives at risk … but they’re limiting people’s ability to bring home a pay check. Let’s hope they get their act together.”

Yesterday morning, McLean passed three transport trucks stuck on the Rossland-Trail hill, including an empty fertilizer “B-Train” truck that had spun out of control by Pinewood. Al Davies, who attended the scene, reported that the driver said it was very lucky nobody had been in the opposite lane.

“Imagine that coming,” McLean speculated, as she added her concern: “Not a speck of sand on the lane going down into Trail and I passed the plow truck spewing sand on the up lane. Just a little too late I would say.”

It’s also personal. McLean’s husband, two daughters, and a friend rolled over on highway 3B near the Waneta Mall on Jan. 22 in what McLean described as “very treacherous” conditions. Three other accidents occurred that night on the same stretch of road, according to McLean, but these were not corroborated by RCMP records—RCMP, however, are not required to attend every accident.

“The RCMP vehicle had a hard time stopping, at least that is what the RCMP officer verbalized to my husband,” McLean wrote in a complaint to Emcon’s Joe Mottishaw. Even standing on the highway was difficult, she said, and the RCMP advised that the vehicle couldn’t be towed until conditions improved.

“Friends who have an RCMP scanner have indicated that there were numerous calls from the RCMP dispatch to Emcon that evening,” McLean added.

Mottishaw responded to McLean that Emcon and its subcontractors had been “out in full force that day and night” due to snow in the forecast. “Our records show Emcon trucks serviced the area in question four times that night, three times prior to your husband’s incident. Well within response times.”

The freezing rain, however, was not in the forecast, Mottishaw said. “Our crew immediately went to using salt in order to combat this condition … While we will never be able to cover every eventuality … I feel the crews did a good job given the conditions. They prioritized the main routes with the most traffic, then went on to deal with the side roads.”

“We received three other calls on icy conditions [from the RCMP] that night, but not related to the same area or highway your husband had his incident,” Mottishaw added, noting that it is a standing policy not to recover vehicles in adverse conditions since “it’s unnecessary and unsafe.”

But Tammy McLean claims that Emcon disregards highway maintenance specifications such as maximum allowable accumulations within minimum response times. She feels these standards are not being met, and says the reason is the company’s dependence on subcontractors.

“The sub-contractors cannot just go out and start plowing, they have to wait until they are called out,” McLean writes. “There are also auxiliary workers who are called out and then laid off after a day or two of snow. In the past the auxiliary workers were hired in the winter and then laid off in the spring, now they are hired for only a few days at a time then laid off, then rehired, depending on the weather.”

McLean points out that Emcon’s contract is up for renewal in 2013. “Now is the time to have our voices heard if we want safer highways, or maybe all is well and it is only a small handful that have concerns,” she said. “Please consider writing to Nicole Pharand-Fraser [Ministry of Transportation, Highways Maintenance Program] and express your concerns.”

Data from ICBC suggests that there has been no discernible increase in winter accidents, but the correlation is complicated by psychological effects—drivers typically compensate for worse conditions through slower, more cautious driving.correlation is complicated by psychological effects—drivers typically compensate for worse conditions through slower, more cautious driving.

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