Once again the Okanagan holds the dubious distinction of having the worst road in the province.
In years past the British Columbia Automobile Association’s (BCAA) annual “Worst Roads” survey had named Westside Road as the worst offender of all, but this year it was Silver Star Road near Vernon that claimed 'top spot' or bottom depending how you look at it.
In fact in the fourth annual “Worst Roads” survey five out of the top 10 worst roads in the province are in the Okanagan.
“The Okanagan has a real winter so you do start to get more pot holes and crumbling pavement and the top roads in the Okanagan (Silver Star and Westside Road) were both chosen for their potholes and crumbling pavement,” explains Ken Cousin, BCAA’s associate vice president of Road Assist.
Okanagan roads identified as the top four were Silver Star Road in top spot, followed by a section of Westside Road, Cosens Bay Road in Coldstream and another section of Westside Road. The fifth Okanagan road on the list was another section of Westside Road that landed in ninth place.
This year BCAA's survey also hit record numbers.
“The total number of votes this year was just under 6,200, which is triple last years and a couple thousand more than we have ever had so there was lots of interest from the public in making our roads safer,” says Cousins.
In the 2014 survey motorists, cyclists and pedestrians identified a record 1,277 separate stretches of road across the province that they feel are unsafe or difficult to navigate, including a bunch right here in the Okanagan.
“175 stretches of roads out of the 1,277 suggested were in the Okanagan, with 27 near Kelowna, eight stretches near West Kelowna, 25 stretches near Vernon and 14 stretches in the Enderby area,” says Cousins. “All up from last years numbers that saw only 16 near Kelowna and only 9 near Vernon.”
He says Okanagan residents are actively trying to see change and this year cast 1,659 votes, more than triple the numbers they saw voting last year.
“This says to me that British Columbians want a way to express their road frustrations and appreciate the opportunity to have their say,” says Cousin.
Silver Star Road had made the list before but never has been named the worst. Acting GM for Silver Star Mountain, Brad Baker, isn't sure how to feel about that.
“Being named the BCAA Worst Road in BC is a double edge sword,” says Baker. “It’s a dubious distinction, but our priority is the safety of our guests, our employees and our residents.”
He says they are primarily concerned with winter maintenance and snow removal but there are year long problems that exist.
“The deteriorating asphalt surface in a concern,” says Baker who adds that it has coincidentally had some attention since the start of this survey with two separate crews patching it on Thursday.
“The spray patching they are doing may be filling some of the cracks and potholes but it certainly isn’t a great surface left behind, sections are still very rough.”
He adds that Silver Star is a community and one of Vernon’s economic engines and he feels their road should be a safe and a pleasant experience to drive on a daily basis.
Cosens Bay Road in Coldstream is a new Okanagan member of the top roads. It received over 240 votes noting pedestrian and cyclist safety which Cousin says is a huge amount of votes for that category of concern.
BCAA says the survey is not meant to criticize government but bring to light roads that need some more attention, noting the worst road leader in years past, Westside Road, has moved down a notch.
“Last year the BC Government did invest $6.5 M in realigning and repaving and creating slow-moving vehicle pull outs on Westside Road but it still made our list, because there is still work to do, but they are making some improvements,” says Cousins. “The intent of the survey is to make sure certain roads are not overlooked and it is a forum for motorists to get the word out that these roads matter to them.”
Accidents and road concerns in the Okanagan are often met with a plethora of community comments that allude to the fact that the road isn't the problem, the driver is, and Cousins says there is some truth to that.
“It is a lot about driving to the conditions and driving safely,” says Cousins. “Road improvements can help but you can work and design and build roads anyway you want and if people chose to not drive them properly or safely then it is still not going to work.”
In the coming weeks, BCAA will share the complete survey results with municipalities, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and other road authorities to encourage improvements.
You can visit BCAA’s website, bcaa.com/worstroads to see the 2014 Top 10 “Worst Roads” list and get tips on how to stay safe on the road when faced with issues such as dangerous potholes, traffic congestion or roads shared by motorists and cyclists.
“We all play a role in being safe on our roads. For drivers, pedestrians or cyclists, it’s about being mindful, following the rules of the road and watching your behaviour,” says Cousins.