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Delta, B.C., mayor calls for review of snow clearing contracts after last week’s storm

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The mayor of Delta, B.C., is calling on the province to review its contract with the company responsible for highway maintenance in the wake of last week’s paralyzing snowstorm.

The snowfall, which hit during the afternoon commute, led to gridlock on the region’s highways and bridges, with some people being trapped in their cars overnight and others reporting commutes of up to 12 hours.

In a letter to Transportation Minister Rob Fleming penned on Friday, Delta Mayor George Harvey said he wants the province to take a second look at its contract with Mainroad Group, which is responsible for snow clearing.

“It is vital that the snow response plan for provincial highways and crossings of the Fraser River is sufficient and that the necessary resources are in place to prevent traffic gridlock and the failure of our provincial transportation system,” Harvey wrote.

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“With increasing unpredictable weather patterns, B.C.’s provincial transportation network must have the necessary preparations in place with adequate resources for winter maintenance.”

Harvey said he was disturbed that once the highway network became jammed more drivers continued to try and get onto the major routes.

He said he’d like to see the province consider using its text message emergency alert system to notify people when the region’s highway system is out of service.

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Read more: ‘We cannot handle it:’ Drivers trapped, cars abandoned as snow falls on B.C.’s roads

Global News requested comment from the Mainroad Group, which referred questions to the Ministry of Transportation.

In a statement to Global News, the ministry said that it and Mainroad were conducting a “review of last Tuesday night’s event” to see if there are extra measures the company could take in the face of future snowstorms.

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“The ministry expects that other municipalities within Metro Vancouver may also be looking at their response to the event, and at ways to improve,” it said.

The ministry went on to say that contractors across the Lower Mainland had “all available equipment and crews deployed” including 30 snowplow trucks equipped with salting and brining equipment ahead of the snowfall. All available tow trucks were also deployed, and Mainroad had hired subcontractors ahead of the storm, it said.

The Ministry said the rapid accumulation of snow and strong winds “challenged deployment of winter salting,” and that congestion caused by stuck and spun-out vehicles prevented crews from clearing snow as it built up.

Read more: Snowfall mayhem delays Metro Vancouver commuters for hours Tuesday evening

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“Despite our maintenance contractors’ efforts, many vehicles were challenged with grades on our structures. The majority of these vehicles were buses and semi trucks that could not climb the grades in the conditions,” the statement reads.

“When these large vehicles became stuck, and in some cases blocked roadways, it also made clearing efforts for all available tow trucks more difficult.”

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement due to the potential for up to four centimetres of snow and patchy freezing drizzle during the morning commute.

The Fraser Valley, including Chilliwack and Hope could see up to 10 centimetres of snow from Tuesday into Wednesday.