Campbell River Mirror

‘Sanding’ turns highway into rocky road

Al Pelletier holds one of several rocks he gathered after his windshield was chipped on Jubilee Parkway.  - Brian Kieran/The Mirror
Al Pelletier holds one of several rocks he gathered after his windshield was chipped on Jubilee Parkway.
— image credit: Brian Kieran/The Mirror

Small stones or large grains of sand?

Just ask Campbell River resident Al Pelletier who must replace his Jeep’s windshield after it lost a battle with a three centimetre pebble that was part of the sand mixture sprayed on icy Jubilee Parkway by highways crews.

“Having spent my life working in the military in Nova Scotia and Manitoba I know what sand on snow and ice should look like. This isn’t it,” Pelletier says. “This mix is dangerous and costly. How many windshields got broken that day?”

Last Friday morning Pelletier was driving down Jubilee Parkway to connect to the lower highway.

“I noticed that the highway had been sanded and could feel it under the wheels of my Jeep,” he says. “An oncoming vehicle threw a rock right into my windshield.  I stopped on the side of the road and had a look at the sand. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing ... rocks up to three centimetres in size were mixed in with the sand.”

Pelletier walked both sides of the Parkway and collected samples.

“This wasn’t just a fluke,” he says. “The larger pieces were in the 1.5 to 2 cm range. This isn’t sand. It’s sand and gravel mixed.”

Emcon Services highways superintendant Stu Travis says the material spread on local roads is crushed in Emcon’s local yard and the largest particles emerging are no bigger than a half inch or 1.2 cm. He says larger pieces of gravel may come from the shoulder of the road because of ploughing.

“Our trucks will pull over and slow down when they meet traffic and they slow down their spinners but if someone is coming towards them at 80 or 90 km an hour the material is still bouncing and there’s not much my guys can do about it.”

Pelletier says when he called Emcon he got lots of attitude, but nothing in the way of satisfaction.  “All I could get out of them is that whatever was sprayed met the highway ministry’s standard. They said I should be happy with whatever was sprayed as it is better to be able to come to a stop safely than worry about the size of the sand.”

Pelletier also called ICBC but didn’t get anywhere. “They didn’t care. ‘Just get your windshield fixed and pay your deductible’ was the best I could get out of them.

“I won’t drive down the Jubilee Parkway anymore when there has been a freeze up,” Pelletier says. He believes Emcon should be spraying sand that has been sifted with nothing bigger than two millimetre pieces making their way into the sand mix.

“This is a parkway with a speed limit of 80 km. Nothing other than sand should be sprayed on a road with that kind of speed limit. I advise everyone to be careful. You don’t stand a chance with this stuff.”

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