TIMMINS—It appears the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) agrees with concerns raised by area NDP MPPs concerning highway clearing standards in Northern Ontario, and some positive action has come as a result.
“The ministry agreed that if we are able to prove that a section of highway is not being properly maintained, they will consider increasing the amount of plowing and/or salting in those areas,” said NDP Transportation Critic and Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson. “We encourage motorists to continue sending us their reports about highway conditions. By working together with motorists, my northern NDP colleagues and I should be able to get the ministry to respond. The more reports people send in, the more effectively we can track problem areas, and pressure the ministry into taking action.”
Mr. Bisson, along with Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha and Timiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof, met with MTO officials last week on the issue. The meeting was organized in response to concerns raised by complaints from the public, submitted to the NDP Northern Road Report. Nipissing MPP Vic Fidelli, a Progressive Conservative, has also been very vocal on this issue.
“We brought the concerns in highway cleaning standards to their attention,” said Mr. Mantha. “We developed the weather reporting system for people to send in any concerns they have with road conditions,” he added, indicating he has had at least 100 calls and emails from the public so far from all areas of the constituency.
“What we are trying to do is target where the problem areas are,” stated Mr. Mantha. “One of the issues we raised with the MTO was the system they use in gauging road conditions. It classifies the roads from 1-5, with a portion of Manitoulin highways classified as number five, “which means highways will be plowed but can and may be snow packed, as long as they clear the road every 10 hours.”
Mr. Mantha continued, explaining under the MTO specifications, a road classified as number four has to be centre bare 24 hours from a snow storm occurring; three, bare pavement 24 hours after an event has occurred; two, bare pavement 16 hours after an event has occurred; and for number one, there needs to be bare pavement within eight hours of an storm having occurred.
“According to my map for Manitoulin, Highway 6 from Espanola to Little Current is a class number two highway,” said Mr. Mantha. “For the highway from Little Current, Gore Bay and Mindemoya, Highways 540 and 551, the road is classed number three, while Highway 6 from Manitowaning to South Baymouth is a class four road. All other highways are classified as five, including, for instance, Highway 540 from Evansville to Meldrum Bay are all classified as number five.”
“They pointed to the reason for the different class roads being traffic numbers, and one of my questions why are they based as well on need and importance,” said Mr. Mantha.
“We have been successful in getting the government to recognize the need to have additional plowing when needed on all highways,” said Mr. Mantha. “We have been told they will focus more attention on their contractors and hold them to the standards required. For instance, they will continue to monitor the contractors with reporting boxes on plows which will indicate how much plowing and sanding has been done, for instance.”
“We will let them know areas of concern, and where concerns have been raised where contractors aren’t following standards,” said Mr. Mantha. “We’re going to keep sending in the reports, and they have indicated they will react.”
“It sounds like there has been a bit of movement on the part of the MTO and it is very helpful people keep sending in emails,” said Mr. Bisson. “I’ve been an MPP for 21 years and I’ve never seen as many complaints about road conditions as we are getting now. We appreciate the movement they have made but we said we will continue to bring the complaints forward from the public, and hold their feet to the fire where there are concerns.”
The NDP MPPs will continue to pass complaints along to the MTO on a regular basis. Drivers are strongly encouraged to send written complaints and pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org
“The more reports people send in, the more effectively we can track problem areas, and pressure the ministry into taking action,” said Mr. Bisson.