With northern winters being rough on the road, the province is calling for higher standards from their contractors.
According to an April 30 news release by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, new maintenance contracts with stricter safety measures have been awarded for three service areas in northern B.C., ensuring better highway conditions during winter weather.
Two contractors won 10-year contracts for service areas 19, 22 and 23, each of which has an optional five-year extension.
The contract for service area 23 which includes highways 16 and 27 was awarded to Yellowhead Road & Bridge (Vanderhoof) Ltd. The contract which started on May 1, covers provincial roadways for Vanderhoof and Fort St. James.
Whereas the contract for service area 19 which includes provincial roadways for Prince George and Mackenzie starts on June 1. This area includes highways 16, 97 and 39. The current contractor of that area is Yellowhead Road & Bridge (Fort George) Ltd and they received the 2019 contract as well.
As for service area 22, which includes highways 97, 29 and 77, the contract has been awarded to Interior Roads. This area covers provincial roadways for Fort St. John, Fort Nelson and Hudson’s Hope. The contract starts on June 1, as per the news release.
The ministry identified the improvements in the current contract as follows — In case of a winter weather event, highway 16, 97 and other Class A highways need to be returned to bare pavement within 24 hours. The previous standard was 48 hours at temperatures of -9 C or warmer.
“Increased communication with the public about the rapidly changing road conditions during severe weather events and other incidents affecting travel on B.C. roads. When a weather event is forecast to occur, increase the patrol frequency to four hours in anticipation of the weather event. The previous standard was 24 hours,” as per the news release.
Additionally, twenty-six of the 28 maintenance contracts in the province will be tendered and awarded through a staggered open-bidding process.
An interesting fact is that private contractors maintain nearly 47,000 kilometres of road and 2,800 bridges in Canada. As per government data, crews apply 7,50,000 tonnes of winter abrasives and 100,000 tonnes of salt to over 1.2 million kms of highways annually throughout B.C.
The total value of these 28 highway maintenance agreements is approximately $400 million annually.