The vehicle carnage, highway deaths, frequent road closures and resulting public outcry for Queen's Park to make the two-laned portion of Highway 11 safer has spurred the province to take a step toward adopting a European-inspired road solution.
The provincial government said today it’s issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for a 2+1 pilot on Highway 11, north of North Bay.
A 2+1 highway is a three-lane highway with a centre passing lane that changes direction approximately every two to five kilometres.
Temiskaming-area Mark Wilson of the local chamber of commerce’s Going the Extra Mile for Safety Committee has been championing the Swedish-designed roadway model, which has an extensive track record of reducing highway fatalities. It’s since been adopted by other European countries.
This will be the first highway pilot of its kind in North America, the government said.
After initially rejecting the 2+1 model in Ontario, the Ministry of Transportation said last December it was willing to road test the concept and selected two sites.
One 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.
In a news release, the government said both sites will be assessed but the design and environment assessment for the Sand Dam Road intersection “will be prioritized.”
Qualified highway design consultants can submit their proposals for design and environmental assessment work through the Ministry of Transportation’s e-tendering portal until December. The province will evaluate submissions and announce the successful bidder in 2023.
For years, many Highway 11 communities, particularly the City of Temiskaming Shores, have petitioned for this portion of the Trans-Canada Highway to be four-laned. This stretch of road, which spans Northern Ontario from Thunder Bay to Nipigon, has become a favoured route for convoys of long-haul truckers moving freight across Canada.
But there’s been some disastrous results on the road with frequent deaths, injuries and road closures, which impact the local economies of many communities.
According to Ministry of Transportation policy, the Northern Ontario portion of Highway 11 does not have a sufficient volume of traffic to warrant twinning the highway.
Yet government policy on which major Northern highways deserve to be four-laned remains largely uneven.
The portion of Highway 11-17 between Nipigon and Thunder Bay is being four-laned, but the remainder of the Trans-Canada Highway through northwestern Ontario is largely two-laned, except for the stretch between Kenora and the Manitoba border, which will be twinned.
"We’re excited to see the 2+1 pilot project moving forward,” said Helene Culhane, chair of Going the Extra Mile for Safety Committee, in a news release. “We’ve been working with Ontario for several years regarding safety on Highway 11 and have advocated for the 2+1 model. It is gratifying to see our hard work is paying off. Our main goal has always been the safety of our roads and our travellers, and we can't thank the ministry enough for delivering on their promise."
"Improving highway safety continues to be the primary topic of conversation among many communities in Northern Ontario, especially as we head into winter," added Temiskaming Shores Coun. Danny Whalen. “The 2+1 pilot project is one way to make our roads and highways safer for everyone, and I am so pleased that Minister Mulroney and the Ontario government are moving ahead." Whalen is also president of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities.
“This is a key next step to get shovels in the ground on critical infrastructure projects that will support a strong transportation network and create jobs,” said Transportation Minister Carolina Mulroney in a statement.
“This pilot project will help address the unique transportation needs of people and businesses in Northern Ontario that rely on our roads and highways to get where they need to go,” said Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, the minister of economic development, job creation and trade.