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Ontario promises to clear major northern highways sooner

Under new standard, Highways 11 and 17 are to be cleared to bare pavement within 12 hours of the end of a winter storm
winter driving 2015
File photo.

The Ontario government is announcing a new measure aimed at improving road safety in Northern Ontario by clearing Highways 11 and 17 four hours faster than the previous standard of 16.

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. Ontario says it is the only province in Canada to have a bare pavement requirement — meaning the road is fully clear of snow after a storm — that is publicly reported.

"Our government continues to ensure that Ontario is upholding the highest winter maintenance standards in North America," says Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli. "Clearing Highways 11 and 17 to bare pavement four hours faster following a winter storm will help keep Nipissing residents safe when they travel. We’re building Ontario and growing the North."

See related: Unique 2+1 highway initiative coming to Highway 11 North

The government says the new standard for clearing snow follows a detailed technical review of winter maintenance operations on Highways 11 and 17 and an analysis of data from the winter maintenance pilot from the past two winter seasons on these highways. 

In 2020, Ontario released a technical review of Highways 11 and 17 and found levels of service generally met or exceeded provincial standards. The Highway 11/17 winter maintenance pilot ran for two years during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 winter seasons and helped inform the new 12-hour bare pavement standard on these highways.

Opposition northern NDP MPPs have been pushing for winter highway safety improvements for several years.

See: NDP blasts Conservatives over northern winter road safety

See also: NDP Northern Ontario highway safety bill passes 'important stage'

And: Private member’s bill would force Province to clear Highway 17 and 11 within eight hours of a snowfall

“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 Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney. “Ontario already has nation-leading standards in place when it comes to winter maintenance, and this builds on our government’s broader efforts to ensure we keep it that way.”

See also: Letter: Truckers seek improved safety enforcement, operator training

In addition to the new standard, Ontario has taken several other actions to enhance its winter maintenance on Ontario highways, including:

  • Increased use of underbody plows that have better performance in the 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.