Relief turns to disbelief in road line drama

Newly painted lines get chip sealed

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Salt Spring residents watched with disbelief last week as a number of freshly painted road lines laid down at the end of July were covered over by another different crew.

The appearance of fresh yellow centre lines on July 26 was widely celebrated by islanders who had long campaigned for safer driver conditions, including local elected official Peter Grove. Road repairs are also usually welcome, but not when gravel and tar go directly over lines painted a few weeks back.

Aubrey Smith is a Salt Spring resident who has been pursuing two MLA constituency offices, Mainroad Contracting and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for three years in an effort to get yellow lines repainted on the island, as well as other road repairs. A particular concern has been the intersection where the major north-end roads meet at the junction with Southey Point.

“Well, the road that I was complaining about, around North End as it moves on to Sunset Drive, has now been tarred and gravelled. Three weeks after the new lines were painted. I despair,” Smith wrote to the Driftwood on Aug. 22.

Writing on Facebook, Dave McKerrell made a similar observation.

“After years of faded lines on our Salt Spring roads they decide to spend our money and paint them, a beautiful job indeed,” McKerrell said. “Then what incompetent manager decided to blast our beautiful new lines with chip seal. The lines are now obliterated in a lot of important places. Such incompetence . . . someone should resign or be fired.”

According to the ministry’s communication department, it is most cost effective to schedule all line painting in the Gulf Islands at once. The timing is based on geography, contractor availability and weather. With those factors, line painting on the Gulf Islands this year happened in late July.

The ministry said overall maintenance work for Salt Spring roads, scheduled with a different contractor, got underway in August to ensure it could be done before the rainy season instead of after winter.

“Ministry staff will continue to work with this contractor to try and replace paint, where possible.”

The ministry would not comment on the possibility of creating policy to ensure scheduling is set to ensure a more rational order of work.

Smith noted this is not the first time the scenario has happened. Lines that were painted in 2015 were then covered with spray tar in some areas, including a stretch of Sunset Drive. That stretch was not repainted again until this summer, he said. (Many other lines painted in 2015 soon disappeared, apparently due to a more environmentally friendly but less durable paint.)

Other complaints Smith has about the current process include no white lines on the edge of roads or at stop signs where “the roads are too narrow;” no yellow line painted on Upper Ganges Road from Central; no arrows at turn lanes in Ganges and no repainting of pedestrian crossings.

Above all, Smith is frustrated there appears to be no co-ordination between ministry staff and contractors.

“I can’t find out the names of the people who make these decisions nor will they let me have minutes of meetings where the decisions are made,” Smith said.

Previous Saanich North and the Islands MLA Gary Holman had a semi-regular meeting with MoTI’s regional office to go over issues in the riding. Line painting was a topic that frequently came up, according to a 2016 report.

Current MLA Adam Olsen and his chief of staff Aldous Sperl have also fielded countless road maintenance requests and complaints from islanders, including the most recent road line situation. They have met with local operations managers three times over the past year to highlight concerns and issues across the riding. The office is also in regular communication when an update from the ministry is needed. 

“We’re hearing about this issue. We have flagged it with the ministry and we’re expecting a response,” Sperl said.

Islanders can contact the Mainroad Contracting hotline for the Southern Vancouver Island service area at 1-877-391-7310 to report road hazards and safety concerns.

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