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Sea to Sky Highway maintenance now falls to single contractor

Miller Capilano takes over contract for Howe Sound Service Area 4

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Road maintenance in and around Whistler will now be the responsibility of a single contractor.

Effective Thursday, Nov. 1, highway maintenance for Howe Sound Service Area 4—which includes Highway 99 from Function Junction to the Duffey Lake summit, and side roads in Pemberton—will fall to Miller Capilano Highway Services.

The contract term is 10 years, with an option for a five-year extension.

Miller Capilano also currently holds a maintenance contract for the Sea to Sky Highway from West Vancouver to Whistler.

The West Vancouver-based company, which declined to be interviewed for this story, takes over the contract from Mainroad, which has served the area for the past 15 years.

"While the loss of the Service Area 4 contract is obviously disappointing and indicative of a very competitive tender process, Mainroad crews were very proud to serve Howe Sound communities. We enjoyed the excellent relationships held with the Ministry and our stakeholders—thank you for your support," said Peter Ashcroft, president and CEO for the Mainroad Group, in a release.

Outgoing Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden had been critical of Mainroad in the past, noting in an August 2017 interview with Pique that a Transportation Advisory Group study examining unexpected highway closures found that the company's work didn't measure up to other contractors in the region.

"We've seen that in snow clearing last winter, for example: the highway was great until you got to Function Junction, which is where Mainroad takes over, and then we had terrible conditions on some days. So I do have some complaints of the condition of performance on Mainroad," she said.

In response, GM Darren Ell said at the time that Mainroad had consistently met ministry standards.

The province has rolled out stricter standards for all service areas across B.C., meant to encourage "a more proactive approach to severe weather," according to a release from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. These include requirements to increase patrol frequency to four hours, from 24 previously, when a weather event is forecasted; to increase patrol frequency from every four hours to every 90 minutes on Class A highways during a winter storm; and to return Class A highways to bare pavement within 24 hours of a winter weather event at temperatures of -9 Celsius or warmer, when de-icing chemicals are safe to use. The previous standard was 48 hours.

The contract for Howe Sound Service Area 4 also includes the Lions Gate and Ironworkers' Memorial bridges on the North Shore, which collectively see more than 185,000 vehicles a day. New requirements coming into effect this month will increase standby hours and identify the type of tow trucks stationed at both bridge crossings, ensuring a large wrecker is available to remove stalled commercial vehicles and buses.

"Having additional hours for tow trucks stationed at the Lions Gate and Ironworkers' Memorial bridges means that these vital North Shore crossings can be put back into service more quickly following disruptive vehicle incidents," said Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale, on behalf of Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, in the release.

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