Truckers still waiting for 2+1 highway
With files from Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles and Nicole Stoffman The Daily Press
Truckers and motorists are still waiting to see progress on a 2+1 highway on Highway 11 north of North Bay that was announced in 2021.
The province issued a request for proposals more than a year ago, however no work has yet been completed, a highway safety advocate told the North Bay Nugget in an interview last week.
A 2+1 highway is a three-lane highway with a centre passing lane that changes direction approximately every two to five kilometres.
At present the highway has alternating passing lanes in some sections, but a 2+1 would add an entirely new lane that alternates direction.
The highway model is used in other jurisdictions around the world and is more cost efficient than twinning a highway, which
would add an identical, parallel road.
Travis McDougall, long-time advocate for Truckers for Safer Highways said truckers were excited to hear about the pilot project.
“The project was announced in 2021 and has seen very little action. There needs to be a lot of action right now.”
McDougall said the number of
collisions and the extent of injuries and damage is worsening.
He said recently North Bay and Area has been the hot spot for transport collisions.
Truckers for safer highways has looked at different 2+1 highway models around the world, and would prefer a guardrail to pylons to separate the highway.
This refers to pylons that look like a stick bolted to the highway and are seen at semi-permanent construction zones, but McDougall admits his organization has not been able to see any of the ministry’s plans.
“We’ve struggled to get any information from the Ministry of Transportation,” McDougall said. “We’re willing to work with anybody to make this better.”
“If there is a guardrail barrier like we see in the GTA that would make a significant effect to prevent head on collisions,” McDougall said, adding that pylons will not stop an 80,000 or 140,000-pound truck from crossing.
Patrick Whitten, spokesperson for Minister of Transportation Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria said “our government is building the first 2+1 highway in North America to improve road safety and traffic flow in northern Ontario.”
“We are continuing to make strong progress on the project, with the design and environmental assessment currently underway.”
Whitten said as this work progresses, the government will continue to provide updates to the public.
McDougall said he’s happy to hear the project is underway, but would like to immediately see inspection stations staffed to ensure trucks are operating properly.
“Our issue is that people are dying right now in preventable collisions,” McDougall said. “We need action now, we need things to be done now, and unfortunately this project is not being built now.”
Weigh scales and inspection stations are the mandatory stops that ensure truckers are following the rules, not carrying overweight loads, they possess proper licensing and equipment is operating in a safe order.
McDougall supports the completion of a new $30.4 million truck inspection station east of Thunder Bay, if it is staffed daily.
The Ministry of transportation told the North Bay Nugget in September the reason inspection stations are staffed intermittently is that non-compliant drivers are more likely to be brought into a Truck Inspection Station if they don’t know when it will be open.
McDougall would like the opportunity to show the minister his organization’s support for the new station, which is slated to be completed this month.
In an Oct. 20 press conference in Port Hope, the minister was asked what Ontario is doing to improve northern road conditions for truckers and replied that he plans to visit the North to visit the highways.
“We’ve made significant commitments to investments on Highway 11, Highway 17. I’m going to be personally visiting the North to take a look at all the highways. Truck drivers are the heartbeat of our economy,” Sarkaria said.
After hearing this, McDougall extended an invitation to the minister to ride along with one of his members, but is still waiting for a response.