Potholes along Highway 19 between Lantzville and Parksville have provided a driving nightmare for Island motorists, at times leaving a slew of damaged vehicles requiring tow trucks.
Parksville’s Devon Matheson was travelling north near exit 46 on Jan. 2 at approximately 4:25 p.m., when he struck a pothole, which he says caused upwards of $2,000 worth of damage to his vehicle.
After pulling over, Matheson noted he went back and measured the pothole as 96.5 centimetres by 195.5 centimetres and approximately 13 to 20 centimetres deep. He said there were no markings or indications nearby to warn drivers of the significant gap.
Another Parksville, Steve (who asked his surname be kept private), had a near-identical experience on Jan. 11 at approximately 5:30 p.m., dealing with the same pothole.
“Another vehicle in front of me - I could see it swerve at the last minute, so I avoided that one… But I hit this thing so hard I thought there was some serious damage,” he said.
Steve’s newly purchased front passenger snow tire had to be replaced, at the cost of $260.
A tow company advised him that it would take several hours to help since there were apparently 30 to 40 other vehicles needing a tow along Highway 19.
“Right around where I was waiting there were a good half-dozen other vehicles sitting, checking their tires and most of them drove off. Except me,” he said.
Richard Taekema, one of the managers for OK Tire in Parksville, where Steve had his truck towed following the incident, said that in January they have had hundreds of people come in to deal with damage caused by those potholes.
On the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 12, he said there were nine tow-ins waiting for the business to open.
“We’re doing our best to keep up with it,” said Taekema.“It’s been almost constant.”
Mainroad Mid Island Contracting, the company responsible for servicing the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s contract for highway maintenance covering Central Vancouver Island, issued a notice that overnight repairs were done along that stretch starting at 8 p.m. on Jan. 11 until 4 a.m. on Jan. 12.
On the same night as Steve’s incident, and the same night Mainroad was doing their overnight repairs, a tow truck was hit near Rumming Road in Lantzville by an alleged impaired driver. Cpl. Mike Halskov with B.C. Highway Patrol confirmed the truck was in the area to tow a vehicle with damage sustained by a pothole.
In an email to PQB News, Teagan Burton, operations manager with Mainroad Contracting, stated that in order to meet the conditions of their contract with the ministry, crews have been working feverishly to repair potholes as they become aware of them, sometimes by repairing the same potholes multiples times a day.
“We have a very robust planning, scheduling and inspection system in which we monitor our works,” wrote Burton.
In a previous interview with PQB News, Burton stated that “freeze-thaw”, the weather erosion that occurs when water freezes in existing asphalt cracks, thereby expanding the cracks and then freezing again to create further breaks, when combined with continuous pressure from highway traffic, eventually crumbles the expanded cracks into a pothole.
“We cannot control, nor can we be responsible for this phenomenon. Potholes can develop very quickly under these conditions, especially with volumes of traffic,” read Burton’s email.
She indicated a process is in place for highway-related claims and can be initiated through an online form found on the provincial government’s website (www2.gov.bc.ca) by clicking on ‘driving and transportation’, ‘driving and cycling’, ‘licensing, insurance and claims’, and finally ‘make a highway-related claim’.
A media relations spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure stated in an email to PQB News that all potential liability claims are assessed on a per-claim basis. He wrote that immediately reporting potholes as their noticed is crucial for traffic safety, adding the easiest way to find out who to contact is by using the online ‘Report a Problem’ tool at www.drivebc.ca/rahp/.
“Given that this road is the primary connection between north and south Vancouver Island, I’ve raised those concerns with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure,” read Walker’s email. “My office is here to help connect people who have been affected by the potholes with resources… Anyone in Parksville-Qualicum can contact my constituency office by email at adam.walker.MLA@leg.bc.ca, or by phone at 250-248-2625.”
“I’m thankful for the crews working around the clock to get the road fixed and I want to encourage people to take extra time when travelling and to drive slowly during these rougher conditions,” wrote Walker.