The call from Temiskaming Shores and other Highway 11 communities for the province to adopt the 2+1 highway model is gaining some traction with the Ford government leading into the 2022 election.
Transportation Minister Carolina Mulroney announced Dec. 14 that they've selected two sites along Highway 11 to try the Swedish-born highway safety model that's been replicated by other countries in Europe. It's had a dramatic impact in reducing head-on collisions and highway deaths.
A 2+1 highway is a three-lane highway with a centre passing lane that changes directions approximately every two to five kilometres, separated by a barrier.
One selected location is a 14-kilometre stretch from Sand Dam Road, north of North Bay, to Ellesmere Road in the Marten River area.
The second spot on Highway 11 is from Highway 64 to Jumping Cariboo Lake Road, a length of 16 kilometres, in the Temagami area.
People can comment on the proposed 2+1 pilot locations to the Ministry of Transportation’s Technical Consultation Portal until January 11, 2022.
The province will then evaluate comments and announce the final 2+1 pilot locations to advance to the preliminary design stage early in the new year.
The government said this will be the first 2+1 pilot in North America.
The MTO has maintained for years that Highway 11, north of North Bay, does not have the volume of traffic to warrant a four-lane highway. However, Highway 11's frequent use by long-haul truckers as the main cross-Canada route; with a resulting increase in accidents and deaths from a combination of unsafe passing, inexperienced professional drivers and bad road conditions; has led to the communities' collective call for adoption of the 2+1 model.
"The Going the Extra Mile for Safety (GEMS) committee worked tirelessly to bring solutions to the table and continued to work closely with the Ontario government to prove that a 2+1 road system was a viable alternative," said highway advocate Helene Culhane, chair of Going the Extra Mile for Safety, a committee of the Temiskaming and Area Chamber of Commerce.
"GEMS would like to thank Minister Mulroney and her staff very much for seeing and sharing our vision of safer roads and helping us to develop the first 2+1 pilot project in Ontario. This investment is an important step to show Northern Ontarians that our safety matters."
Temiskaming Shores Coun. Danny Whalen said better highway safety has been a primary topic of conversation among many communities in northeastern Ontario.
"The member municipalities all along Highway 11 have for many years been in conversation with the province for a safer, more efficient and cost-effective solution for northern travel. We congratulate Minister Mulroney for taking a bold stance and supporting the efforts of the Going the Extra Mile for Safety (GEMS) committee and committing to this pilot project for a safer design and reconstruction of this highway. Today’s announcement of a 2+1 pilot project is welcome news for the North and promotes a solution brought forward by people from the North."
Mulroney said the government heard "resounding calls" from people in the communities to move this project along.
"Identifying potential pilot locations for further consideration is a big step forward, as our government continues to improve Ontario’s transportation network, helping people and goods get to where they need to go quickly and safely," she said in a statement.
“This pilot project along Highway 11 will help address some of the unique transportation challenges experienced by remote communities, including First Nation communities, and will play an important part in strengthening economic growth and job creation in the North," said Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, the Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Minister.
The government said the pilot locations were selected based on a site selection criteria report that was posted for comment on the Ministry of Transportation’s Technical Consultation Portal last September with input from the 2+1 Advancement Working Group, which includes representation from the Going the Extra Mile for Safety group.