Highways 542/551 and western 540 seriously deteriorated and MPP Mantha files concerns with transportation minister

A section of Highway 540.

MANITOULIN—While residents, local, municipal and provincial political leaders have voiced their concerns with what some are calling “deplorable” road conditions, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has outlined its plans for this year to improve many of these roads.

“Some of the highway roads I saw are in deplorable condition,” stated Michael Mantha, MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin after a visit he made to the Island recently. “It is as if someone has blown up some of the roads.”

“I was on the Island March 26 and had seen videos and photographs of some of the road conditions and after my visit, I presented all of this to transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney,” said MPP Mantha. “I mentioned to the minister that I know that funding is being provided to carry out improvements on the Highway from Little Current to Whitefish Falls this summer, but I said work needs to be done on highways 540 and 542 as well.”

MPP Mantha said on his recent visit he had visited a couple of the highways, Highway 542 from Gore Bay to Providence Bay and on to Mindemoya, and Highway 540 from Gore Bay to Evansville (through Gordon/Barrie Island). “Right now, these roads are a hazard to everyone,” he said. “In some cases, they are in deplorable condition because of neglect over the years. The minister assured me she would be looking into it.”

Maja Mielonen, a resident of Mindemoya told The Expositor that because of the conditions of  Highway 542 and 551 (Gore Bay to Highway 6 through Mindemoya and Sandfield), and Providence Bay to Mindemoya she had sent a letter to the Minister of Transportation in March. She wrote that, “in January of 2021, we urged you to take a good look at the conditions of the two highways mentioned above, found on Manitoulin Island, and plan to resurfaced these roads as soon as possible. As well plan to include paved shoulders for the safety of all road users as found on the other three provincial highways (Highway 6, 540 and 551) on Manitoulin. Now, in the spring 2022, we find these two highways in completely unsafe condition in many parts and completely impassible with oncoming traffic. Vehicular traffic finds itself having to position itself in the middle of the road in many places just to be able to navigate the very badly broken up road.”

Ms. Mielonen, who is also president of Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates wrote, “these roads are posing a severe hazard and are literally impassable, not to speak of outright dangerous for any cyclist having to choose traveling on them to achieve connectivity. The current conditions will completely ruin our current well-known status as one of the best cycle tourism destinations in Canada. These current conditions are having a very negative effect on our destination’s reputation and severely impacting the safety of all road users.”

“I have never seen them as bad as they are now. These highways were in really bad shape a couple of years ago. They are outright dangerous right now,” said Ms. Mielonen.

“It’s pretty well a gravel road now in some spots,” said Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne of the stretch of Highway 540 from Gore Bay to the Gordon/Barrie Island township office turnoff at the Noble Road. “It’s terrible.”

Richard Stephens, mayor of the municipality of Central Manitoulin noted his council have raised concerns with highway conditions, noting that the municipality has raised concerns the past couple of years in particular with highway conditions.

Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon/Barrie Island said, “the ministry is obviously aware of all the concerns. I think  the  highway conditions need to be addressed. I think some of the work on highways on the Island has gotten behind.  We are not southern Ontario, so our highways are not top of the list for the province, but they are a vital link for our residents, services and in an emergency.”

MPP Mantha told The Expositor last Friday, “I did talk to Minister Mulroney (late last week), and she indicated she would be providing me information (this week). I anticipate it will be good news.”

Last Friday, Jaclyn Lytle, stakeholder relations advisor for MTO northeast operations told The Expositor, “The safety of the people travelling on Ontario’s highways is a responsibility that the ministry takes very seriously. Ensuring that highway maintenance is carried out in accordance with our standard and operational requirements will continue to be a priority.”

“The ministry is proceeding with the planned double surface treatment work along various highways on Manitoulin Island, investing over $5 million into the highway network. The work is currently in the award stages with a current estimated start date of June, 2022,” said Ms. Lytle.

“Work under this contract will occur at the following locations: Highway 540 (various intersections), Highway 542 from the intersection of Highways 542/551 easterly 2.0 kilometres to Monument Road; Highway 542 from Mindemoya town limits easterly for 3.0 kilometres towards Big Lake; Highway 542 from the junction of Highway 540/542 (at the Gore Bay OPP station), southerly for 2.82 kilometres; Highway 542 at Four O Two Road, southerly for 4.1 kilometres; Highway 542 at Silver Bay Road, westerly for 2.65 kilometres; and Highway 551 from the intersection of highways 542/551, northernly for 3.1 kilometres.”

Ms. Lytle added, “this work will be completed in early fall of 2022 and will improve the ride quality and correct distresses in the pavement surface. The ministry will continue to monitor the highways on Manitoulin Island and ensure that they remain in a safe and reliable condition for all users.”