Two years ago, Fire Chief Balfour shared Highway 115 safety concerns with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) after a year of repeated highway traffic accidents on Highway 115, particularly in the vicinity of the Tapley ¼ Line ramps. Chief Balfour and Cavan-Monaghan Firefighters know too well the implications of poor driving conditions along this stretch, as they are usually among the first to arrive on the scene to help motorists in distress.
Fast forward two years: the past three weeks have seen two closures of that highway in the same vicinity sparked by multi-vehicle accidents that resulted in two fatalities. And that’s just the month of November.
In 2019, Chief Balfour outlined a number of observations regarding factors that might be contributing to the high volume of accidents in this area. First, the volume of traffic on this highway was rising. The topography in this stretch approaching Tapley ¼ Line is challenging, possibly acting as another contributing factor to high accident rates in this area. The open land along stretches of the Highway 115 corridor is subject to heavy winds and drifting snow, which are soon transformed into ice by heavy traffic volume. Elevation changes along this area may also contribute to ice build-up on the highway surface, and a reduction in prevention measures including snow fence installation on adjacent properties, a lack of warning signs for winter conditions and a reduction in the frequency of winter maintenance operations were also seen as potentially contributing to the dangerous conditions.
Discussions at the time between MPP Laurie Scott, representatives from MTO and Cavan Monaghan resulted in several changes that helped alleviate the situation. One of the main initiatives was the re-opening of a Road Works depot in Pontypool, which significantly reduced the timing of snowplough routes along the stretch of the highway between Porter Road and Tapley ¼ Line.
Maintenance activities for this road adhere to strict provincial service level guidelines for a Class A highways, which require the deployment of maintenance equipment within 30 minutes of the start of a winter event. Plowing must begin when snow or slush accumulation on the road reaches 2cm, and bare pavement must be delivered within eight hours of the end of a winter event. Evidence at the time suggested that the local maintenance contractor exceeded these performance standards.
Another suggestion was to install electronic signage in the Tapley area to warn motorists of changing road conditions. Because one was already in place for southbound traffic at the junction of Highways 115 and 7A, MTO suggested they would consider this option only when the existing units were replaced.
Public education regarding winter driving conditions could also help reduce accidents during the winter season. Current forecasts, road cameras, conditions and closure information are all available on the MTO website at http://511on.ca and provide information to help them better prepare for winter road travel.
Whether the conditions remain particularly challenging or increased volumes are resulting in more frequent, serious accidents along this highway will be among the topics discussed at the December 6th Council meeting. KG