The Regional District of East Kootenay is asking the Minister of Transporation to formally review highway maintenance standards in the region pending further discussion and statistical research.
Initiated by Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano, the RDEK board approved a motion at their February meeting that would send a letter to Claire Trevena, B.C. Minister of Transporation and Infrastructure about potentially raising the standard of highway maintenance or even reverting back to a government-run system.
Giuliano said residents and motorists in the East Kootenay feel more can be done to improve driving conditions across the region.
"The contractor is working up to the standards that was set by the government so you can't really blame them and this is why there's no point in sending them letters, which I did do in the past and have complained in the past," Giuliano told Summit 107. "It is up to the government to look at those standards and change them because obviously, they're not high enough."
Stan Doehle, RDEK Electoral Area B Director, agreed with Giuliano and also entertained the idea of moving away from privatization, believing that when the government was in charge of highway maintenance, there was more staff and more equipment to get the job done.
"Ministry of Transportation, Highways, used to look after our roads and it was a government contract and I think it should go back to that way because it's an essential service for this province," said Doehle. "Then the standards will be set to a Ministry standard, not a contract standard because they do meet the requirements, that's not the argument."
Not disputing that Mainroad East Kootenay is meeting its contract obligations by the Ministry of Transporation, the letter from the RDEK wants the Ministry to see if those standards should be raised.
While the RDEK would like a review of the standards, the board agreed that there needs to be factual proof and back up, and is also inquiring about the historical trend of motor vehicle collisions. Doehle is one advocate for gathering solidified facts around those collisions to see if they've increased since the private contract was awarded.
Don McCormick strongly believes the RDEK can't just make a blanket challenge to the Ministry but needs to have those facts to back up any claim for change. The Kimberley Mayor said the Ministry of Transportation has always done right by the RDEK and hopes that positive discussion could bring about any necessary changes to the standards or the way highway maintenance is conducted in the East Kootenay.
"In discussions that we've had with the Ministry in the past, they have been more than helpful at coming to the table with statistics and data that we have asked for. I think it's a question of us just saying look we're not exactly sure what those statistics are going to tell us, please let's have a close look, and then see what that data says and then respond from there."
Currently, Mainroad East Kootenay maintains 3,673 kilometres of road in the region under a contract monitored by the Ministry of Transportation.
- Bradley Jones
Audio: Mary Giuliano, Mayor of Fernie
Audio: Stan Doehle, RDEK Director of Electoral Area B
Audio: Don McCormick, Mayor of Kimberley