The drivers in the massive yellow snow plows you may have encountered recently on provincial roads don’t just sit around the rest of the year.
Mainroad South Island Contracting LP maintains year-round 3,615 kilometres of roadway on southern Vancouver Island, from Chemainus down to Greater Victoria, including Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan, Sooke and all roads on the six Southern Gulf Islands.
It’s the company the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure calls to fill potholes, clear vegetation, maintain signs and barriers, and remove everything from graffiti to roadside litter. They ensure surface reflectors stay reflective and pilings supporting bridging are bearing their share of the load. And when the snow begins piling on the Malahat, Mainroad’s trucks are the ones outside plowing, during all hours, and sometimes for up to 12-hour shifts.
Since its founding in 1988, Mainroad Group’s road maintenance jobs extend out of 17 operating companies: nine maintenance, six contracting and two product companies. Operations manager Chris Cowley notes they handle “all Gulf Islands, all municipal highways and any non-municipal roads.”
Mainroad is now on the 15th year of its contract. “Once you have one in, you’re in for a little while,” he says with a slight smile. His plan is to be around for a “little while” longer.
By the time snow blanketed Southern Vancouver Island, Mainroad had already prepared by laying down some groundwork, literally. The team checked weather reports and, when there was snow warnings, took them seriously.
Cowley says Mainroad started repair work on their trucks in October. He provides the province with their winter plan, with “evidence their trucks were ready.” They trained their staff and stocked up on sand and salt. Whenever snow is forecasted, they send out patrols to look for icy spots and “pre-treat” civil roads with a salt brine solution to keep the salt from sticking.
“It’s what we do,” Cowley adds.
The now historic levels of snowfall Greater Victoria accumulated in February are the types of storms that are becoming more common, Cowley says. Preparation, accordingly, has ramped up.
“Climate change — it’s eating us up,” he adds.