QUEEN’S PARK – NDP MPP Guy Bourgouin held a press conference at Queen’s Park on Wednesday to introduce a Private Member’s Bill that will improve maintenance standards and make winter driving safer on Northern Ontario’s main Highways 11 and 17.
Bourgouin, MPP for Mushkegowuk-James Bay, was joined by representatives from northern communities and businesses who said improving winter road maintenance in Northern Ontario is urgently needed.
“Too many Northern Ontarians have lost their lives, or suffered life altering injuries driving on poorly-maintained routes in the winter,” Bourgouin said. “With this bill we can save lives in Northern Ontario by making our highways safer for drivers.
“Northern drivers and families have waited long enough. They deserve nothing less than to know that their roads are safe during the long winter months.”
MPP Bourgouin’s bill, Making Northern Ontario Highways Safer, 2019, will ensure that Highways 11 and 17 are maintained with the province’s strictest requirements for snow removal. By classifying the northern highways the same as all 400 series highways and the QEW, snow must be removed within eight hours of the end of a snowfall.
The 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.
Dave Plourde, Mayor of Kapuskasing said he supports Bourgouin’s bill to improve winter conditions on Highway 11, a lifeline of the community. “Highway 11 is the only access point for our community and recurrent winter closures have major consequences on the lives of residents in the Kapuskasing area. The municipal council will be thus voting on a resolution to support Mr. Bourgouin’s bill on June 17.”
Sue Dery, Safety Manager at Grant’s Transport Ltd./GRW Transport Limited, said winter road conditions on the highways need to be improved. A truck driver from the company was killed on Highway 11 during a snow storm.
“Northern Ontario’s highways are filled with dangerous corners and hills. Lots of truckers are retiring or not working during winter months because they are scared,” said Dery. “Winter, coupled with driver shortage, is taking a toll on the company’s operations.”
Mark Andrews, former OPP North East Region Traffic and Marine Unit Commander, said Northern Ontario’s main routes need to be properly maintained to keep northern communities and the country connected.
“The classification and treatment of Highways 11 and 17 have always concerned me, as both routes are integral for the Trans Canada corridor,” said Andrews. “There are very few opportunities for detours on either of these routes. When these routes are not maintained and kept passable, the country is cut in half. Finally, the communities along these routes have only one way to access each other by ground: these two highways.”
Mario Villeneuve, President of Villeneuve Construction said the highways need to be properly maintained to keep traffic flowing.
“Highways are shut down more often than before,” said Villeneuve. “Heavy-load traffic is increasingly using the Highway 11 corridor, which is causing inconveniences to communities and businesses.”