After a difficult winter of repeated highway traffic accidents on Highway 115, particularly in the vicinity of the Tapley ¼ Line ramps, Cavan Monaghan Fire Chief Bill Balfour sent an extensive list of concerns to the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) in April to seek support to improve road conditions along this stretch of highway to reduce the number of incidents. Chief Balfour and his staff of Firefighters know too well the implications of poor driving conditions along this stretch, as they are usually the first to arrive on the scene to help motorists in distress.
In his letter to the Ministry, 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 continues to increase. The topography in this area is another contributing factor to high accident rates near Tapely ¼ Line. The open land along stretches of the #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 may also have contributed to the dangerous conditions. Information was also sought regarding the implications of the use of the cement surface used along this highway rather than asphalt.
John Potts, Maintenance Superintendent for MTO in the Bancroft office, explained that maintenance activities for this road follow strict provincial service level guidelines for a Class A highways. They require the deployment of maintenance equipment within 30 minutes of the start of a winter event and plowing to begin when snow or slush accumulation on the road reaches 2cm, with bare pavement delivered within eight hours of the end of a winter event. Mr. Potts noted that the performance of the local maintenance contractor exceeded the required performance standard for the province. While ministry staff is in discussions with landowners adjacent to the highway to arrange snow fence installations, this can interfere with certain crops so it is not always possible to achieve. The ministry did, however, agree to consider a request for electronic signage in the Tapley area to warn motorists of changing road conditions. Because they already have one in place for southbound traffic at the junction of highways 115 and 7A, this will only happen as existing units are replaced.
Public education regarding winter driving was seen as another way to reduce accidents during the season. Current forecasts, road cameras, conditions and closure information are all available on the MTO website at https://5 11on.ca. This link will be added to the township website and this information would allow motorists to be better prepared for winter road travel. KG