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Well, we’ve almost made it through another winter. A congratulatory pat on the back to us all! Most of us know how to deal with snow and ice around our homes, but have you ever wondered how the province deals with it? The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has a huge task to undertake every winter, so let’s break down how it measures snow and ice control performance to keep motorists safe through plowing, monitoring and the use of road salt and sand.
The Ministry of Transportation’s Goal
The Ministry of Transportation has quite the precarious job every winter. Trying to keep our roads clear of snow and ice takes the dedicated work of many companies, contractors and individuals. The MTO has set a goal for itself to meet the bare pavement standard of 90% each winter across the province. The standard does vary depending on road type and winter traffic volume. Some low traffic highways and roads may stay snow-covered for most of the winter, with excess snow being plowed off and road salt or sand applied to improve friction.
Standard Timeframes Following a Winter Storm
To better understand how and when our roads are cleared after a winter storm, here is a breakdown of the standard timeframes for the different classes of roads:
Class 1 - Eight hours for freeways and multi-lane highways, e.g. Highway 401, QEW and Highway 11 four-lane section.
Class 2 - Sixteen hours for high traffic volume, two-lane highways, e.g. Highway 17 and Trans-Canada.
Class 3 - Twenty-four hours for medium traffic volume, two-lane highways, e.g. Highway 35.
Class 4 - Twenty-four hours to centre bare for low volume, two-lane highways, e.g. Highway 516.
A Commitment to Motorists
Much like us as drivers have a job to do when driving in treacherous weather, so does the MTO. It has made a commitment to the motorists of Ontario that it will continue to monitor the work of contractors in clearing our highways before, during and after a winter storm has hit. However, there are a few things we need to remember in the event of more extreme winter storms:
  • A severe or longer storm may delay getting pavement to the bare standard, even with the best efforts of highway crews.
  • Some servicing ramps and low volume roads may not see plows or sanders for up to eight hours.
  • In the case of extreme weather, some highways and roads may be closed.
  • Temperatures of minus 12 and below can cause road salt to become ineffective.
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