Northern Ont. residents want better highway snow removal

Residents of some northwestern Ontario communities are calling for improvements to highway maintenance.

Residents of Red Lake, Atikokan complain of icy road conditions long after winter storms pass

Ontario's Ministry of Transportation says Ontario's winter maintenance standards are among the highest in North America. (CBC News)

Residents of some northwestern Ontario communities are calling for improvements to highway maintenance.

They complain roads aren't properly cleared after a snowfall.

Debra Geary of Red Lake doesn't mince he words when talking about the conditions.

"The roads are deplorable," she said.

Geary said warmer weather last week finally cleared Highway 105, but, for the most part, it has been treacherous driving.

"There's so much ice buildup, that you're actually skidding on the corners as you're driving up 105. The sand and salt doesn't even appear to be on the roads," she said.

For five years, Geary was principal at the public school in Ear Falls but lived in Red Lake. That meant each day she spent more than 90 minutes on Highway 105 — it's at least a 45-minute drive, one way, from Red Lake to Ear Falls.

She now works in Balmertown, but still drives routinely to Ear Falls and Dryden. She said she cannot remember the highway being as bad as it has been this year.

"I'm on that highway so often that I know what it's like and we've never had conditions so poor," she said.

Red Lake not alone

In Atikokan, mayor Dennis Brown has the same concerns.

"Seemed to be that those icy conditions seemed to exist on the highway there for several days. We haven't experienced that in the past," he said.

Brown wonders whether road crews should be getting out on the highway sooner after it snows.

Red Lake Mayor Phil Vinet said residents have been complaining to him this winter about road clearing on the route that links Red Lake to the Trans Canada Highway.

"We've had a lot of people raise concerns about the quality and the condition of, certainly the 105, probably more so because it's a long distance between communities and if you're stuck on that road, you could be stuck," Vinet said.

Annemarie Piscopo speaks for the Ministry of Transportation and said Ontario's winter maintenance standards "are among the highest in North America."

"Our contractors are required to meet ministry standards, and we monitor their work before, during, and after a winter storm," she said.

Piscopo insists that all companies in the Northwest have been meeting those standards.