Thunder Bay·Audio

MTO prepares for winter snow season

Ontario's Ministry of Transportation says its private contractors are better prepared to clear the snow off northern Ontario highways this winter.

Transportation Ministry admits some private contractors "struggled" with last year's "big winter"

The Ministry of Transportation says roads in northern Ontario will be safer this year after it worked with contractors to review routes and adjust some of their operations. (Heather Kitching/CBC)
Snow-clearing contractors and the Ministry of Transportation say they're ready for another treacherous winter -- if that's what nature has in store for the northwest.M-T-O officials joined a contractor in Thunder Bay yesterday to talk about their strate 3:37
Ontario's Ministry of Transportation says its private contractors are better prepared to clear the snow off northern Ontario highways this winter and they'll be more closely monitored to ensure they do.
Ministry of Transportation Regional Director Ian Smith says extreme weather like last winter creates challenges for road maintenance regardless of whether it is outsourced. (Ministry of Transportation)

"We did have a big winter last winter," said Ian Smith, Regional Director, Ministry of Transportation (MTO) in Northwestern Ontario at a news conference near Thunder Bay on Tuesday.

"We did notice that some of the contractors were struggling in terms of meeting their performance targets, so we have worked with the contractors over the course of the summer to look at their routes and work with them to make some changes to their operations."  

Smith said the ministry hired some additional staff "to oversee the contractors and ensure they are meeting their performance targets."

Those targets require the Trans-Canada Highway to be plowed every 2.2 hours in a snowstorm. The highway must be plowed to bare pavement within 16 hours of the end of a storm. 
Snow plow contractor Rob Batson says last winter's extreme weather made it a challenge to keep trucks moving. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

'We do monitor them'

Last winter's extreme weather made those targets difficult to meet according to Rob Batson, superintendent of construction and operations for Carillion Canada, one of the contractors.

"We had way more snowfall than average and the winter lasted longer than average so it was just a challenge keeping all the trucks moving at all times and meeting our times for all the maintenance requirements," Batson said.

Smith said there are times, such as in severe weather or accident situations, when it is impossible to meet ministry standards, but he said there are consequences for non-compliance under ordinary circumstances.

"All of the equipment has tracking equipment on board, so we can track in real time in our offices on computers where every piece of equipment is ...so we do monitor them. If they don't meet the performance targets in the contract we can apply financial penalties to them," Smith said.

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