Road conditions concerning

Potholes, overgrown laneways, pockmarked roadway shoulders for cyclists — members of the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board had a few bones to pick with a delegation from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure at Thursday's meeting. 

"It's really gone downhill. We're not getting the service we used to get," said director George Bush from Area B, Cawston. 

"I'm not sure if it's the contractor, or the supervisor's not making them do it, or if you're just not getting enough money from the government, or maybe us politicians aren't putting on enough pressure. Because it is not good. Especially in the rural areas [...] we're not happy with it, and we need to do a change."

Director Tim Roberts brought forward a concern about overgrown laneways in his area of rural Keremeos and Hedley, citing trees and other overgrowth growing up through the middle of the lanes that could impede emergency vehicles. 

"I've got senior citizens calling me regarding overgrowth saying I used too keep it clean myself, but now I can't, and I don't think I should be hiring somebody to keep it clean so it doesn't be fully overgrown and be a fire hazard, plus I need access to the back of my property," Roberts said. "When I talked to the local MoTI representative, I basically was told the community is a low priority."

The MoTI representatives said they don't regularly maintain those laneways except for hazardous trees and drainage. They don't mow or grade, and say that their only obligation as a provincial body is to provide one access point from the main road to the property, not a second one. 

"We also don't maintain for fire. That's not something we do as a ministry," Steve Sirett, program manager, said. 

Director Ron Obirek from Okanagan Falls brought up a persistent pothole problem. He acknowledged that as a small community, residential roads there aren't top of the list for MoTI to attend to when a pothole is reported.

But he shared frustrations from his community members that when a reported pothole does finally get around to being fixed, crews don't bother to fix others that may be visible just a few feet away. 

"What appears obvious to [community members] is not obvious to the road staff," Obirek said. "How hard is it just to do a little extra?"

Another concern voiced was narrow roads, especially in rural areas, that cyclists ride in the middle of the road due to potholes in the shoulders. But when asked whether potholes would be fixed faster in areas of high cyclist traffic where directors are attempting to encourage bikers to use the side of the road, the answer was a simple no.

"Because it's on the shoulder, it's not necessarily a priority," Sirett said. 

Following up on the point, Penticton councillor Judy Sentes asked whether the recently announced return of Penticton's Ironman in 2020 and the thousands of cyclists that will come through the South Okanagan as part of that will have any effect on MoTI's plans for upkeep on the roadways. 

"It certainly doesn't come with more money for me to pay for roads," Sirett said. 

The discussion spilled overtime due to the number of directors chiming in.

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