Port Edward complaining to government about highway maintenance near Terrace

The District of Port Edward lashed out at the job of highway maintenance being done by Nechako Northcoast.

The District of Port Edward lashed out at the job of highway maintenance being done by Nechako Northcoast, the company responsible for snow clearing and highway care from Terrace to around Kasiks, and will be taking their complaints via a strongly worded letter to not only the Minister of Transportation but the Premier.

“I’ve driven to Terrace about 10 times this winter and any time there is even a bit of snow or icey conditions the roads are deplorable….There’s zero sand and zero salt,” said councillor Murray Kristoff, who brought the issue forward.

“I can see it being a problem during a heavy snowfall or something, but that section of road is all but abandoned. The snow turns to compact snow and it is white as a sheet.”

Councillor Kristoff, however, was not alone in his assessment that the highway past the boundary of the O’Brien Road and Bridge Maintenance contract is sorely lacking in maintenance.

“I drove 1,700 kilometres around BC this December, including the Coquihala, Highways 1 through the Fraser canyon and Highway 97 and 16 , and the worst stretch by far was the 60 or so kilometres from Terrace heading to Prince Rupert…If this company worked for me they’d be gone by now,” said councillor Knut Bjorndal.

“I think we should CC the Premier because, from my own personal experience, we don’t want this contractor working on the highway when the current contract expires,” said chief administrative officer Ron Bedard.

“When you’re out there for hockey or whatever and you have your family in the truck, it’s the sh**s…It’s like night and day when you go from the area of one contractor to the other,” said councillor Dan Franzen.

The Ministry of Transportation reviews Nechako Northcoast for its services and Transportation ministry official Don Ramsay said the company is paid $7,940,000 a year to maintain its roads. They have had this contract since 1991.

Ramsay said the Ministry of Transportation has been receiving calls of complaint, but this is commonplace after heavy snowfalls. He explained there is a diligent monitoring system to ensure Nechako is fulfilling its contract.

“We have a set of specifications which basically outline our expectations in terms of snowfall, how it is to be treated, and the maximum accumulation that is allowed,” Ramsay said.

“We make many, many hundreds of observations and record them over the course of a year, and we provide them to the contractor so they know what we are seeing.”

Ramsay explained the review process on Nechako’s maintenance goes beyond local monitoring. Twice a year, it is reviewed from an outside team of Ministry of Transportation staff. The ministry also meets with stakeholder groups, such as trucking companies and the RCMP, to hear input on the road conditions.

A combination of these three methods leads to a biannual score. For the 2010/2011 winter, Nechako scored 88.7 per cent.

“That means that they are generally fulfilling the contract, and they are generally getting satisfactory results,” Ramsay said.

He adds that while people have a right to complain, allowances have to be made for extreme weather.

“If you think about the work that these guys do, they make a huge contribution to the community in keeping the roads open,” Ramsay pointed out.

~With files from the Terrace Standard