We are committed to keeping Ontarians safe in winter weather. This technical review of Highways 11 and 17 looks at the work we are doing to keep these highways clear of ice and snow during winter.

In this report, we review various aspects of winter maintenance operations including:

  • highway service level designations based on winter traffic volumes
  • the number of patrol yards and winter vehicles that we have in place to fight winter storms
  • the time it takes our contractors to clear highways to bare pavement after a storm
  • snowfall rates
  • vehicle collisions

The report found that current levels of service on Highways 11 and 17 generally meet or exceed provincial standards. Ontario’s contractors have been clearing snow faster, exceeding the bare pavement standard for those highways. The report also outlines improvements to help keep our highways as safe as possible during winter.

Pilot project

In order to review alternatives and opportunities to further enhance winter maintenance services, the ministry initiated a pilot project in winter 2020-21 to identify sections of Highways 11 and 17 where higher winter maintenance standards can be imposed as well as areas where contractors are having difficulty meeting standards.

The pilot involved correlation of Bare Pavement data analysis and field observations to identify potential improvement areas including an alternative to introduce a new bare pavement performance target.

Ontario has some of the highest winter maintenance standards in North America and we are continuously looking for ways to improve our service.

Pilot project outcomes

We continue to regularly explore additional measures to enhance winter maintenance services while optimizing how equipment and materials are used to clear our highways. Major findings and outcomes of the Highways 11 and 17 pilot project are:

  • new “ON Trans-Canada” level of service with 12-hour bare pavement standard that will improve winter maintenance services and make the best use of equipment and winter materials on Highways 11 and 17.
  • use new contract models that specify equipment, routes and requirements for contractors to provide improved winter maintenance services. All contracts in Northern Ontario will transition to the new contract models by Winter 2024-25.
  • increase in the use of underbody plows that remove packed snow better than conventional plows.
  • increase in the use of anti-icing liquids (where appropriate) before storms to make it easier to clear snow.
  • use of Potassium Acetate on trial-basis to further explore benefits of winter materials with lower freezing point.
  • improve routes at specific areas to reduce deadheading. Deadheading is the distance travelled by a snowplow from its yard to the start of its designated route of operation.
  • installing eight new Road Weather Information System stations along Highways 11 and 17 for better weather forecasting that helps contractors respond to winter weather.
  • geometric improvements, such as rock removal in specific areas, to push back high rock cuts and improve sunlight exposure of roadway sections to help melt the snow which will help get to bare pavement faster.