What will Huntsville’s highways look like after tonight’s storm?

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With a new winter comes new changes to the winter maintenance contract for Huntsville’s two main highways. The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has responded to the Auditor General’s Special Report on Highway Winter Maintenance with tougher rules for contractors, but what will that look like for local drivers? Here’s a rundown on the changes that will potentially be put to the test tonight with up to 20 cm of snow in the forecast.

The MTO has offered highway contractors a winter readiness and performance incentive in an attempt to improve safety, requiring them to submit proof of mechanical inspections that show their equipment is ready along with a roster of drivers. The MTO has said they will assess the performance of each piece of equipment and its drivers throughout the winter. In a December 14 presentation to District Council, the MTO reported that Carillion, the contractor for the Huntsville area, is in the process of developing an equipment fleet maintenance program for improved equipment reliability in Huntsville.

Contractors have also been offered an incentive for Direct Liquid Application (DLA) use, which Carillion has opted in to. DLA involves spraying an anti-icing liquid on roads before a storm to prevent ice from forming.

Drivers won’t be stuck behind tow plows this winter but only on Highway 11, which is classified as a Class 1 Freeway. Tow plows are still allowed on secondary highways including Highway 60, which is classified as Class 2.

The MTO’s target is to meet the bare pavement standard 90 per cent of the time. The standard for Class 1 highways is bare pavement within 8 hours; for Class 2 highways, contractors have 16 hours to return the road surface to bare pavement. Highway ramps in the area also fall under Class 2. Highways 35 and 141 are Class 3, which must be returned to bare pavement within 24 hours.

The MTO was invited to attend a recent (District) Council meeting to debrief on their action plans for this winter and going forward. It is apparent that the MTO have taken the Auditor General’s report and public concerns seriously and time will tell how this translates into improved maintenance this winter.Fred Jahn, District of Muskoka Commissioner of Public Works

The MTO installed cameras along Highway 11 last winter at South Mary Lake Road so that drivers can view road conditions via a map on TrackMyPlow.com. The website will also show the locations of area plows. Carillion’s Huntsville contract area extends from Georgian Bay to the other side of Algonquin Park, and from Sundridge to south of Gravenhurst.

A view of Huntsville's highways on TrackMyPlow.com showing the location of plows and stationary cameras, and local weather conditions.

A view of Huntsville’s highways on TrackMyPlow.com showing the location of plows and stationary cameras, and local weather conditions.

It will be up to the MTO to monitor whether the changes have the desired effect, but drivers, District staff and elected officials will be watching closely. “The District does not have any official involvement with the maintenance of Provincial Highways. However, our elected officials, in response to public concerns, facilitated discussions with MTO staff last winter through the Engineering and Public Works Committee,” said Fred Jahn, Commissioner of Public Works. “The MTO was also invited to attend a recent (District) Council meeting to debrief on their action plans for this winter and going forward. It is apparent that the MTO have taken the Auditor General’s report and public concerns seriously and time will tell how this translates into improved maintenance this winter.”

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