Following a frigid winter that immobilized much of the South Island for days, B.C. will now improve island highway safety maintenance during extreme weather conditions.

A new 10-year maintenance contract will kick in for the South Island starting Oct. 1 for all Class A highways, including the Malahat and Pat Bay.

The new contract, awarded to Emcon Service Inc., will call for faster public communication about road conditions, faster paving times, increased safety patrols and more.

Specifically, updates to the new contract include:

  • Plowing Class A highways to bare pavement within 24 hours once road temperatures reach -9 C or warmer, when de-icing chemicals are most effective. (The previous standard was 48 hours);
  • Increasing the frequency of safety patrols on Class A highways during storms to every 90 minutes, instead of the previous policy of once every four hours;
  • Increasing patrol frequency on highways to once every four hours when an extreme weather event is forecasted, down from the previous standard of once every 24 hours;
  • Increasing proactive safety measures prior to a winter weather event, like spreading anti-icing chemicals on roads before storms hit;
  • And increasing the speed of communication with the public about changing road conditions during severe weather events.

After Vancouver Island was slammed with snow back in mid-February, the province began to review its 15-year-old contracts, which were set to expire this year. 

"We are recognizing for the travelling public they have more expectations,” Ministry of Transportation official Ian Pilkington told CTV News back in February.

“The other thing we have seen is a lot of new technologies, so we are starting to recognize contractors can do a better job."

Every year, the province spends approximately $400 million on highway maintenance.