As potholes and frost heaves plague drivers, road infrastructure and maintenance in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District spawned sharp discussion at the regional district’s March 23 board meeting in Salmon Arm.
Chair Rhona Martin told the board that Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo had advised her it would be useful to him if directors were to provide a list of their priority improvements at the local level.
“We may want to do it at EAD (electoral area directors) meeting, but I did want to bring it to the board,” Martin said.
Area D Falkland/Salmon Valley/Ranchero director Rene Talbot said he had received a letter from Kyllo about 18 months earlier requesting a list of roads that need upgrading.
“I gave him a fairly good list and have heard nothing back; the odds are they’re only gonna spend money on the TCH,” he said, pointing out infrastructure maintenance is a provincial responsibility. “I have roads where pavement is missing. I kind of feel like were just wasting a lot of time and, at the end of the day, nothing’s happening.”
Martin said the board’s primary concern has always been the Trans-Canada Highway, but acknowledged there are local road issues that need to be addressed.
Directors agreed concerns about the Trans-Canada Highway are linked to location, such as areas like Tappen that have had a high number of accidents and areas with dangerous curves and rock/mudslide issues.
Martin pointed out that the section of Highway 1 near Malakwa was the site of many fatalities before it was four-laned years ago and there has been only one since.
Area C South Shuswap director Paul Demenok said he believes Kyllo’s request for a priority list concerns secondary roads.
“The entire secondary road budget (for the province) is $90 million,” he said. “I gave him list two years ago and got one out of 10 addressed.”
“You’ll notice JPW’s letter was very carefully worded – maintenance only, and that’s a high topic in Area C, if not daily, then weekly,” Demenok said referring to a letter the board received from the road maintenance company seeking input from directors on road-clearing over the winter. “We have huge potholes; we have to crawl through the roads and there’s crumbling infrastructure.”
Demenok said side roads in many areas are becoming as much, if not more dangerous, than Highway 1 and urged directors to agree to come up with a list for Kyllo.
“If we don’t make a list, then we’re having to live with the status quo,” he said.
Area F director Larry Morgan said the Squilax-Anglemont Road was great after being paved last summer, but noted winter has brought frost heaves and the road needs to be repaved.
“Getting back and forth from Scotch Creek and Salmon Arm has been brutal this winter – absolute carnage,” he said, switching to the subject of TCH travel.
Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz said he believes the province is doing its best and that pressure needs to be put on Ottawa to support the Trans-Canada.
“I have heard about projects near Golden and the province is now working with the feds to get more funding, he said, questioning whether the board should ask the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for help in seeking federal funding. “If we got more assistance from Ottawa, we might have money for rural roads.”
Sitting in for Golden director Caleb Moss, Ron Oszust suggested the rebirth of a regional transportation committee that included local politicians who were able to meet with and discuss local issues with provincial officials.
Salmon Arm Coun. Kevin Flynn suggested a two-fold motion – refer the matter of rural roads to the April 4 EAD meeting and send a letter to Kyllo reinforcing the board’s desire to see continued efforts on Trans-Canada infrastructure improvement.
The letter from JPW meanwhile, elicited no complaints from other board members. Most expressed satisfaction with this year’s snow-clearing efforts.
“That’s a different conversation than we have had in past years, and that’s good,” said Martin.