Province changing snow clearing standards on Highways 11 and 17

Provincial changes to snow clearing standards on the Trans-Canada Highway are getting a warm welcome from a regional leader.

The province on Friday announced it will be requiring contractors to clear Highways 11 and 17 to bare pavement within 12 hours from the end of a winter storm. The new timeframe is four hours quicker than the previous standard.

Wendy Landry, the mayor of Shuniah and the president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, said she’s pleased with the new standard, which shows the province listened to feedback.

“This is a result of the work of the Northern Ontario transportation task force,” she said. “It’s nice to know that the ministry is hearing us, and agrees with us and is taking steps to making improvements on the clearing of the highways in the wintertime.”

Landry said it’s not going to stop all of the safety concerns, but it’s a step in the right direction.

“So reducing that time frame from 16 hours to 12 hours is a much different requirement that we’ve experienced in the past,” she said.

The province said the new standard — which it's calling the “ON Trans-Canada” — follows an analysis of a winter maintenance pilot on Highways 11 and 17 over the past two winters and a review of winter maintenance operations.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said in a release that having new standards to clear Highways 11 and 17 faster will improve road safety for drivers in the North.

“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,” she said.

The ministry also highlighted other actions to improve safely on winter highways including increasing the use of underbody plows that have better performance in removal of snowpack as compared to conventional plows, and using anti-icing liquids before storms to make it easier to clear snow.

"I know firsthand the unique challenges and conditions that drivers face across the Northwestern parts of our province, especially during the winter months. Clearing Highways 11 and 17 at an enhanced rate after snowfall will greatly improve safety," said Greg Rickford, the province's minister of northern development and the MPP for Kenora-Rainy River.

Landry said the task force presented an interim report to the ministry with other recommendations, like increasing the training truck drivers receive with additional hours requirements and twinning highways.

She said a final report is scheduled to be presented in the spring.

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source