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HomeBusinessSnowmaggedon part 2: Traffic chaos at the foot of North Vancouver’s Cut

Snowmaggedon part 2: Traffic chaos at the foot of North Vancouver’s Cut

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Bob Mackin

A New Westminster city councillor said he is at a loss for words, three weeks after a snowstorm stranded motorists on bridges and highways overnight throughout the Lower Mainland. 

Another snowstorm arrived Dec. 18 morning and it forced crews in North Vancouver to temporarily shut down the bottom of the Upper Levels Highway’s Cut due to numerous spun-out vehicles.

Ministry of Transportation camera on The Cut, Dec. 18 (DriveBC)

“It’s not like we didn’t see this coming,” said Coun. Daniel Fontaine of the New West Progressives. “And we still don’t have answers as to why this keeps happening! Can we please get all the major players in a room to discuss?”

After the Nov. 29 storm, Fontaine called for a regional “snow summit” with provincial, regional and municipal officials, to determine what went wrong and find ways to improve preparation and response. That meeting hasn’t happened yet, but new Metro Vancouver Chair and Delta Mayor George Harvie has called on the government to review its highways maintenance contracts. The Nov. 29 snowstorm led to 3,600 crash and/or injury claims to ICBC, 94% more than the Tuesday of the previous week. 

“Surely the Premier [David Eby] can make something that simple happen if the Minister of Transportation [Rob Fleming] won’t respond,” Fontaine said. “After all, I think it even snows in Point Grey, too.”

Weather chaser Brad Atchison Tweeted a video that he shot around 7:45 a.m. Sunday from the bottom of The Cut, driving westbound.

“Alex Fraser, Pattullo (bridges), Massey Tunnel, all you had it really bad on that Tuesday [Nov. 29]. Now it hit the North Shore,” Atchison said on his video.

“There are so many spun-out cars, I lost count. All wheel drive and snow tires, and I am struggling.” 

New Westminster City Councillor Daniel Fontaine (Zoom)

Nearly three hours later, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure issued a statement that warned motorists of Highway 1 detours and closures through North Vancouver while highway maintenance crews and police deal with disabled cars and trucks. 

“Tow trucks are restoring access, while the ministry’s maintenance contractor continues to treat Highway 1 with abrasives. Drivers with vehicles not properly equipped with winter tires should avoid this section of Highway 1.”

The Ministry also advised drivers to assist crews by moving over safely when they see an approaching vehicle displaying an amber light. “This allows maintenance crews to clear the snow and improve road conditions to reduce hazards for drivers and help them get home safely.”

Miller Capilano Highway Services Ltd., holds the highway maintenance contract for Service Area 4, which includes North and West Vancouver. It did not immediately respond for comment. 

The Cut and surroundings were part of a $200 million upgrade finished last summer. 

The latest snowfall warning issued by Environment Canada, at 4:59 a.m. Sunday, called for five to 10 centimetres of snow in Metro Vancouver through the afternoon due to an Arctic front, with windchills as low as -10 Celsius by late Sunday afternoon.

“Due to the rapid cooling through the day due to the arctic front, wet exposed surfaces on roads and sidewalks could freeze rapidly and become hazardous. Exercise extra caution if out driving, or walking,” said the weather warning.

The change in weather was already predicted Dec. 16, when the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness urged British Columbians to prepare for colder-than-normal temperatures and snow beginning Saturday. 

“The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s maintenance contractors will be treating provincial roads with brine and winter abrasives in advance of any precipitation. They will be ready to manage any accumulations of snow,” said the statement. 

“Drivers can do their part by planning ahead. If weather conditions worsen, drivers should stay off the road, and if they have to travel, ensure their vehicle is properly equipped with snow tires.”

The Ministry also suggested drivers check forecasts before travelling, be ready with a full tank of fuel and carry a winter survival kit, including a windshield scraper, snow brush, flashlight with extra batteries, first aid supplies, blanket, drinking water and non-perishable food. 

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