Road maintenance must be prioritized

There are a lot of roads, and it takes a lot of time to get to them all!

This is the message the M.D. of Smoky River is trying to convey, as winter approaches and plowing timeliness will be on everyone’s mind.

“We maintain 1,784 km of roads and 113 bridges,” M.D. of Smoky River operations manager Larry Doucette says.

“This network was built over many years and these assets would cost around $900 million to replace today,” he adds.

The M.D. tries to efficiently grade and plow gravel roads, carefully planning the most important routes (emergency and bus routes) to be maintained first.

“In general terms, roads are prioritized by their function, with emergency and bus routes at the top of the list and those that do not connect homes to the network at the bottom,” explains Doucette.

“Policies provide this instruction to staff from council on how and when we perform maintenance and which roads are maintained at what level.”

The M.D. anticipates spending approximately $7 million per year on road maintenance and work, which Doucette says includes transportation related work, fueling, and maintenance of equipment, and buildings and staff related to the work.

“Summer maintenance is to be prioritized by road function and surfacing type with roads that focus on mobility of traffic (market, collector, and arterial roads) receiving maintenance before other gravel surfaced roads that function to connect land to roads,” Doucette says.

“Staff continually monitor the transportation network for changes in traffic patterns and recommends changes to road classification when warranted,” he adds.

With so many roads to be maintained, Doucette explains it takes some time to circle back to each surface.

“There are normal maintenance items for gravel roads that occur on an ongoing basis that we anticipate fixing,” says Doucette. “Market, collector, and arterial routes see a grader at least once a month, with maintenance happening more often if warranted. Other gravelled routes see a grader at least every other month and more often if needed.”

He says that additional maintenance required changes from year to year, depending on how heavy traffic is on certain roads and other factors.

“Road crews are watching for these areas, and we appreciate a heads up from the public when they note areas that may require attention,” says Doucette.

“Any road defects noted are fixed based on the priority of the defect. Commercial haulers enter into road maintenance agreements with the municipality to assist with the extra road maintenance required due to their work,” he adds.

Doucette says staff and council are interested to hear from the public regarding these policies, which are available on the M.D. website or by visiting the office.

“We appreciate the efforts we are seeing from the public in avoiding heavy hauls during inclement weather, when possible, and in abiding by the haul routes in road use agreements,” says Doucette.

Emily Plihal Local Journalism Initiative Reporter - South Peace News -

Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, South Peace News