New highway maintenance contract for southern Vancouver Island expected to improve road standards. (File photo)

New highway maintenance contract for southern Vancouver Island expected to improve road standards. (File photo)

New road maintenance contract for southern Vancouver Island announced

Higher standards expected

Plans are for improved road maintenance on the area’s highways just in time for the winter driving season.

A new maintenance contract has been awarded for the service of provincial roadways between Victoria and Mt. Sicker Road in North Cowichan, west to Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew, as well as the southern Gulf Islands that is expected to see improved standards and better highway conditions year-round.

The contract was awarded to Emcon Services Inc. through an open bidding process.

The contract has a 10-year term and an optional five-year extension.

It comes into effect on Oct. 1, the day after the existing contract expires.

Mainroad South Island Contracting is the existing contractor for the south Island, and the company has been the contractor in the area since 2004.

“While the loss of the … contract is obviously disappointing and indicative of a very competitive tender process, Mainroad crews were very proud to serve South Island communities,” said Peter Ashcroft, president and CEO for the Mainroad Group.

“We enjoyed the excellent relationships held with the Ministry (of Transporation and Infrastructure) and our stakeholders. Thank you for your support. We wish Emcon Services every success.”

The new maintenance contracts for all service areas in B.C. now require higher standards and a more proactive approach when a severe weather event occurs.

Some of the biggest improvements over the most recent contracts include increasing communication with the public about rapidly changing road conditions during severe weather events and other incidents affecting travel on B.C. roads, and returning winter Class A highways to bare pavement within 24 hours of a winter weather event, when the temperature is -9 C or warmer (the previous standard was 48 hours).

The new contract will also see the increase of patrol frequency to 90 minutes on a Class A highway, such as the Malahat, during a winter storm (the previous standard was four hours); increasing the patrol frequency to four hours when a weather event is forecast (the previous standard was 24 hours); and requiring contractors to be more proactive prior to a winter weather event.

B.C. spends about $400 million per year to private contractors for highway maintenance, covering 47,000 km of highway and 2,800 bridges.

Their crews apply 750,000 tonnes of winter abrasives and 100,000 tonnes of salt each year.