With the recently announced reclassification of Hwy. 16 about to kick in before the end of this month, a reader in Granisle called in for some clarification on what it could mean for him and anyone else using Hwy. 118.
The 50 kilometre stretch of highway between Topley and Granisle has been Eric Lammi’s regular connection to Hwy. 16 since he moved there several years ago from Dease Lake. Lammi would like to see snow removed more quickly once its fallen – before it’s compacted – and he questions the use of serrated ice blades on compact snow.
For regular users of Hwy. 118, there won’t be an increase in the frequency of snow clearing that Hwy. 16 will see. Highway 118 isn’t included in the scope of the recently announced highway reclassifications.
Although highway contractors have no say in highway classification (it’s a provincial decision), Lakes District Maintenance’s (LDM) regional operations manager Carey Derksen offered some clarification.
“It [Hwy. 118] will remain a class B highway in the winter,” Derksen said. “Classifications are based on traffic volumes and types of traffic utilizing the highway network. Granisle highway is a very low volume highway network thus the class remains the same.”
Winter storms are first cleared during early morning hours before LDM equipment takes to Hwy. 16 for snow removal. Trucks return to Hwy. 118 mid-morning if snowfall has been continuous.
“Traffic volumes are a very important part of compact snow maintenance and removing slush and ice from highways,” Derksen added.
Low traffic volumes means ice melting products don’t get moved around enough for even distribution on the roadway, resulting in a rough frozen surface.
All told, the current approach to maintaining Hwy. 118 comes out of past experience, including driver feedback.
“We maintain Hwy. 118 as compact,” Derksen said. “It’s much easier to keep smooth and safe using graders to ice blade.”
Ice blades produce the deep scarring in compact ice everyone who lives around here is familiar with. The scars trap winter sand and roughen the surface for better traction.
“We have tried many different combinations of winter blades on our trucks and graders over the years,” Derksen said.
Compact snow can’t be removed below certain surface temperatures (see Lakes District News, Jan. 15, 2014 Lakes District Maintenance crews make safety highest priority). Lakes District Maintenance uses three different blades to deal with compact snow: smooth carbide blades, carbide ‘ice’ blades, and a third specialized blade designed for the hardest compact snow.
“We do explore options for blades as new products come out to improve operations and provide a safe roadway for the travelling public,” Derksen added.
Lakes District Maintenance maintains a user call-in line, an important part of their mandate to keep posted road conditions current on the Drive BC website. Lakes District Maintenance can be reached toll-free at 888-255-8055.