Complaints about the conditions of area roads are piling up.
However managers at AIM, the highway maintenance contractor, say the situation is improving.
“I’ve been in this business a long time, long enough to know that [complaints] come with the business,” said Rick Wright, one of two operations managers for AIM.
AIM was awarded the contract for highway maintenance in 2018, officially taking over from Argo earlier last year.
Wright acknowledged there has been a learning curve, and the company is short two plow trucks.
“We are still waiting for equipment,” he said.
Many local residents expressed concern, following the first snow storm of the season just before Christmas, after roads leading to Coalmont and Tulameen went uncleared for several days.
“Coalmont and Tulameen got dropped and we are working on it.”
Approximately 60 cm of snow fell over two days, and numerous factors contributed to those communities being stranded, said Wright.
Due to a communications error, Coalmont Road was not plowed past the pavement. The closure of Highway 3 west of town drew resources away from the smaller areas, and there were equipment breakdowns, he said.
Since then AIM has hired a sub-contractor to prioritize the Coalmont and Tulameen areas, and is in the process of sourcing a second contractor to help out.
Wright said snow removal for that area will improve.
“I went down personally and drove the Coalmont area…I’ll be very disappointed if it [doesn’t] improve.”
Wright said AIM has met its goals maintaining Highway 3 and busier routes.
He added workers are using the necessary combinations and amounts of salt, brine and calcium to keep those thoroughfares ice free.
According to Princeton RCMP Sergeant Rob Hughes there have been several accidents on Highway 3 over the past three weeks, but none involving serious injuries.
He could not say whether there has been an increase in road crashes this year, partially because of a change in reporting procedures. Accidents not involving injuries and causing less than $10,000 in damage do not have to be reported to police. Last winter the threshold for reporting was $1,000 in damage.
Hughes also put the onus on drivers to be safe.
“You are responsible to read the conditions of the road.”
Especially, drivers need to adjust their speed if roads are covered in snow, ice or slush, he said.
AIM was awarded the 10-year-contract for the South Okanagan and Okanagan Shuswap in October 2018 – approximately 3,500 km of roads – and the deal was inked in the spring of 2019.
The company missed its May 15 deadline for road sweeping, citing the difficulty in sourcing the necessary equipment.
In October RDOS director Bob Coyne told The Spotlight that as the province awarded 26 new road maintenance contracts in 18 months it effectively exhausted the machinery supply.
“It’s totally a provincial issue,” he said. “Our province let out too many contracts for the available equipment.”