Northern MPP reintroduces bill for safer winter highways
Mushkegowuk-James Bay NDP MPP Guy Bourgouin reintroduced his private member’s bill Tuesday morning at Queen’s Park to improve maintenance standards for safer winter driving on highways 11 and 17.
The bill would make it the law that the province must clear the roads within eight hours of a snowfall.
It would classify northern highways the same as all 400 series highways that have the strictest snow removal requirements.
“Northerners have been waiting long enough. Premier Doug Ford should have acted on my bill two years ago to clear our highways during the winter and make it safer for northern families. Ford’s refusal to act means northern drivers keep risking their lives on poorly maintained routes in the winter,” said Bourgouin.
“With this bill, we can prevent highway tragedies in northern Ontario by making our highways safer. Northern drivers and their families deserve nothing less than to know that their roads are safe during our long winter months.”
Bourgouin was joined at the online news conference by representatives from northern communities and businesses who are calling for safer, cleaner highways to reduce winter closures, said an Ontario NDP release.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s snow removal classification standards depend on the type of highway and traffic volumes, not on climate or vehicle size and weight. Bourgouin’s bill would bump up highways 11 and 17 to Class 1 in all of their sections, whether two or four-lane, and eliminate vehicular traffic specification.
“Northern highways are no longer safe and road closures occur more often than before. Commercial traffic has drastically increased on the Highway 11 corridor and our road infrastructure and maintenance need to be adapted to better serve all northern communities and businesses,“ said Mario Villeneuve, vice-president of Villeneuve Construction.
Jordanna Colwill, a spokesperson for Ontario Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney, told CTV News in an email the provincial Progressive Conservative "government is committed to maintaining a safe and efficient highway network across our province – particularly in northern Ontario where the winter months pose significant challenges for drivers."
"Ontario has among the highest standards in the entire country to achieve bare pavement following a snowfall and we want to keep it that way. There will always be exceptional circumstances during a winter storm," Colwill said.
A review of winter maintenance operations on Highways 11 and 17 in 2020 confirmed the province is meeting or exceeding all clearing standards for these highways, she said.
However, the province will conduct a trial this winter with a goal of 12 hours to bare pavement at select portions of those two northern highways.
"This will help inform areas where we can implement more stringent standards for clearing to help northerners get where they need to go faster and more safely," Colwill said.