Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald presented a petition of nearly 1,000 signatures to the Legislature on Monday, May 4th.
The names on the petition represented people who are concerned about the state of maintenance on the highways of the East Kootenay. The petition was created through the Taking Back East Kootenay Highways Facebook group, which has 1,895 members.
“I took this opportunity to bring this issue to the attention of the Minister of Transportation Todd Stone,” Macdonald said.
Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting is responsible for keeping highways safe to drive on. The Facebook group was created last year to call for the public sector to once again assume responsibility for highway maintenance.
Fraser Sinclair, a former snowplow driver for Mainroad Group and one of the founders of the Facebook group, said the company is simply unable to make East Kootenay roads safe.
“They do not have enough equipment on the road and they do not have enough people to operate their equipment,” Sinclair said. “When they first started here, they had the full compliment because that was what the government required, and I guess over time the government has laxed off or Mainroad has managed to skim down from what they required.”
Sinclair said the petition is a good start, but he was hoping it would be bigger. The petition was signed by less than half of the Facebook group’s members.
“We probably started too late in the winter,” Sinclair said. “I imagine this fall, once the snow flies, (the petition) will pick up again.”
Upon seeing the petition, Macdonald understood the importance of presenting it to the Legislature in Victoria.
“One of the biggest issues raised at my office is with the condition of roads and the lack of maintenance to ensure that we can travel safely throughout the area,” Macdonald said. “I have raised these issues with the Minister and his staff many times.”
In an effort to address complaints, Mainroad Group holds free pre-winter presentations in areas where it operates, including Invermere.
During a presentation in late November, a spokesperson explained to the crowd of 12 in Invermere that attention given to a road after snowfall depends on its classification (A, B, C, or D).
Highway 93/95 is classified as “B” while most of the roads in the Columbia Valley are “D.” This means that most of the roads are considered rural and are given the lowest priority after snowfall.
The Mainroad spokesperson said that many complaints come from drivers who have simply never seen the maintenance trucks.
Amid the tension between Mainroad and frustrated taxpayers, Macdonald said he is committed to continuing to pressure the provincial government to make changes to highway maintenance
“It is clear from this petition that people are fed up,” Macdonald said. “It’s time for the government to take real action to make our highways safe.”