MTO staff reluctant to discuss potential problems with Carillion Canada.

from left: Ministry of Transportation staffers Steve Bruce, Christina Klein and Melissa Buelow, reported on Highway 401 closures through Northumberland County to county councillors Wednesday, January 24.

Article & image by Valeria Macdonald

An Ontario Transportation Ministry report on Highway 401 closures in Northumberland didn’t directly address Northumberland County councillors concerns about the viability of the contractor currently clearing snow and ice from the multi-lane highway.

The parent company of Carillion Canada which looks after the road services on the 401 in Northumberland County is located in the U.K. and right now it is in bankruptcy.

Cramahe Mayor Marc Coombs spoke for all when at the conclusion of a two-part presentation by Ministry staff that looked at Highway 401 crash-and-closure statistics in Northumberland County, he expressed concern about the impact of the bankruptcy should the company’s doors be closed.

MTO regional contracts’ engineer, David Kerr, said he wasn’t sure if he should have led off his 401 maintenance report with the information (or await councillor questions) but said an “understanding” was reached last week with Carillion that Highway 401 would “continued to be cleared for the rest of the winter season” through the existing contract between the company and MTO.

The longer-term relationship will be looked at after that, Kerr said.

Cramahe Mayor Coombs was not assured. “I hope the MTO has a ‘Plan B’….if they lock their doors,” he said.

No “Plan B” was offered by MTO staff at the meeting.

Before Kerr’s presentation explaining the way weather and road conditions are monitored (including roadside cameras, signs advising motorists of conditions including weather warnings and “track my plow” technology that depicts the location of plows on roads and provides pictures for the travelling public- accessed through Ontario.ca/511), former Northumberland County staffer, Christina Klein, provided data on crashes and closures from 2012 to 2016.

She has the responsibility of traffic analysis in the Ministry’s eastern Ontario region.

Data reveals that the highest number of collisions resulting in closures in Eastern Region are along the 64-kilometres in Northumberland with a total of 1,803 between 2012 and 2016.

Other statistics are:

• 21% of all traffic (of the 43,200 vehicles travelling daily in 2016) were transport trucks  – per the data collected on Highway 401 at Port Hope.

• the average length of a closure was 5.5 hours in Northumberland with a maximum of 28 hours, for a total of 258.5 closures hours from 2012 to 2016.

A map showed the number of “full closures” on Highway 401 between identified exits along Northumberland County.

Alnwick/Haldimand Mayor John Logel said it would be more valuable to know the shorter areas along the highway where more of the accidents occurred. For example, he said, “lots of accidents occur on curves.”

During the presentation, councillors were told that the research and subsequent analysis of the impact of microclimates are ongoing.