Dianne St. Jean
Locals and drivers frustrated with  winter driving conditions near Avola

Complaints have been heard for years of the hazardous winter travelling conditions on Highway 5 between Wire Cache to Avola to Blue River, and although much of the concerns are raised by those who live in the area, there has been a lot of café talk in nearby communities like Valemount.

That part of the highway sees a lot of accidents, be it smaller vehicles hitting the ditch or drivers of semi-trucks jack-knifing. Some involve people who are just passing through and perhaps not familiar with the conditions and who are consequently unprepared. This includes travellers from the coast heading north or extra traffic caused when the #1 is closed.

But some complain that this stretch of highway is not maintained to the same standards as the highway maintained by crews from Clearwater, particularly an approximate ten-kilometre stretch from Avola that has become notoriously dubbed “the line” or “the zone” by locals and truck drivers that regularly pass through this section and are very familiar with the road and winter conditions.

Comments from some who have had conversations in the past with crews say that there is a lack of manpower and equipment, or breakdown of equipment.  But it’s not just outside travellers that are affected. Some Avola residents say that the road conditions also impact their lives during winter.

Some simply stay home because they know the highway is dangerous to travel on. One resident said that she made the decision for the last couple of years to just stay home between December and February or March until she feels it safe enough to get back on the road. 

Yet there are concerns for aging residents who might need to travel for medical reasons and who have to cancel important appointments because of the roads. 

Most of us also know that Avola is fairly isolated, and when highway lanes are closed or conditions are too unsafe to travel on, this means that supplies can run low for residents.

But it’s not just highway conditions that create frustration for locals. After a snowfall some roads in Avola are not plowed for a few days afterward, making access to the highway difficult or even inaccessible. Also the ramp to the RR crossing does not get sanded well enough for traction and safe passage, and the slope up to the highway is steep and slick.

Says one resident, “I don’t know what the solution is, but I know what the problem is.”

And it would probably be safe to say that most if not all would like to see BC Highways take a serious look at the concerns and reevaluate their standards for the region.