The Ontario government has announced that it is working to improve road safety in Northern Ontario by clearing Highways 11 and 17 four hours faster than the previous standard. The new “ON Trans-Canada” standard requires contractors to clear the highways to bare pavement within 12 hours of the end of a winter storm.
“Our government is the first to create a new highway level of service that will ensure Highways 11 and 17 are cleared faster, while improving road safety for drivers in the North,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation.
Richard Deschamps is one of the organizers of the group Hwy 11/17 Kills People. He spoke to Road Warrior News earlier this year and identified two major issues that need to be corrected: truck driver training programs in which drivers are licensed in southern Ontario, and then allowed to drive in northern Ontario where they are completely unfamiliar with winter road conditions; and the physical maintenance and infrastructure of the highway.
“Basically, we are asking Ontario to admit there is a problem, and to do something about it,” he explains.
Deschamps, working with two of his friends, launched a petition entitled, “Working Together for a Better and Safer Highway.” The petition, on change.org, passed its original goal of 15,000 signatures and now has more than 16,000 signatures.
“Even OPP members have signed our petition,” Deschamps notes. “They can’t believe how often they get called out to these accidents: it’s every day. Every day.”
Ontario says its new standard for clearing snow follows a detailed technical review of winter maintenance operations on Highways 11 and 17 and analysis of data from the winter maintenance pilot from the past two winter seasons on these highways.
In addition to the new standard, Ontario is taking several other actions to enhance its winter maintenance on Ontario highways, including:
- Increased use of underbody plows that have better performance in removal of snowpack as compared to conventional plows.
- Increased proactive use of anti-icing liquids before storms to make it easier to clear snow.
- Building an additional 24 Road Weather Information Stations (14 in Northern Ontario) to respond to changing winter weather conditions faster and more effectively.
- Enhancing 14 rest areas as a safe place to stop during the winter season, including rehabilitation of the rest areas along Highways 11, 17 and 599.
- Moving ahead with the first-ever 2+1 highway pilot in North America to help make our roads even safer.
Provincial service standards are evaluated on an ongoing basis to determine opportunities to further enhance winter maintenance operations across the highway network.