Along with responding to recent snowfall that has hammered the Okanagan-Shuswap, the province’s highway maintenance contractor has also been replying to a storm of public criticism.
Gabriel Nava, AIM Roads operations manager for the region, said while he would not consider any of the calls received by the contractor’s hotline to be threatening, he said some have been aggressive.
Nava said callers have also blamed AIM Roads for their loss of power during hydro outages, a service not within AIM Roads’ responsibility.
“There is a lot of good feedback and there are some people getting tired of the snow – that’s what I will call the frustration coming through,” Nava said. “I just think people need to be a little bit more patient and understand the situation is all over.”
Nava explained if someone calls to report severe road conditions and they do not hear back from the contractor, the delay is due to the number of calls being received at the same time. Sometimes when AIM Roads telephone operators do get back to callers the response is less than positive.
“We try to address the concerns and let them talk, but when we try to explain anything we are being blamed,” he said.
Despite this, Nava is trying to focus on the positive, recalling a driver who told him of a woman who rushed out of her home to bring them cookies and thank them for the service.
The road clearing has been made challenging not just by the amount of snow, but also the colder temperatures that came with it. The brine solution used by AIM Roads is effective at keeping the roads clear of ice and snow to -9 C, beyond this the contractor is left to plow and lay down abrasive sand.
“In some sections they were rough, I agree, during the heavy snowfall, but after the last snowflake hits the ground, in 24 hours we were running the highways,” Nava said of the contractor’s response to the most recent snowstorm experienced in the region. “I have a plan of attack after these extreme temperatures start dropping and coming to warmer temperatures.”
AIM Roads is obligated by the B.C. Ministry of Transportation to focus on specific roadways in a snow event. One such specification laid out by the ministry is the maximum amount of snow allowed to accumulate before the contractor is required to plow. A ‘Class A’ roadway, one that has over 5,000 daily commuters, has a maximum allowable accumulation of four centimetres for one lane going each way and must be plowed within 90 minutes.
School bus and industrial traffic routes fall within the ‘Class C’ category and have an allowable accumulation of 10 cm for one lane going each way and must be cleared within six hours. Classes D, E and F, which include irregularly maintained winter routes, do not have specified allowable accumulations and timeframes.
Nava said all of AIM Roads’ 113 vehicles are working the highways with the help of 11 different contractors.
“One thing that I think people are missing is the snowpack is already going beyond accumulations than in the past. Our snow quantities are getting big and everyone can see that,” Nava said.