Technology could make northern roads safer, slower: report

Northern Policy Institute report recommends new ways to make northern roads and highways safer

Technology could be used to make roads in northern Ontario safer, such as sensors that will automatically lower speed limits if roads are snowy or icy.

Using this technology can reduce accidents and save lives, according to a detailed report published by the Northern Policy Institute (NPI) – Smart Solutions for Northern Roads by William Dunstan.

Dunstan believes that by using existing technology to change accepted driving habits, crashes can be reduced and lives saved. It will also reduce the number of driving interruptions caused by closed highways.

“Roads in Northern Ontario are often dangerous, in poor condition or non-existent. These shortcomings can be addressed through the use of innovative technologies in road construction and design, a new NPI briefing paper finds. Some ‘smart road’ technologies are already in Other areas represent cost-effective options for improving safety. In addition, innovative road construction technologies can make road construction and maintenance in northern Ontario cheaper and easier,” Dunstan wrote.

The 14-page report outlines several options for governments to bring about change. One of these options is called FAST or Fixed Automatic Spray Technology. FAST is already used in some parts of southern Ontario.

The FAST option automatically sprays anti-icing fluid when sensors detect atmospheric conditions that may form ice or glue snow on the road.

“The technology is best suited for bridges that freeze ahead of the rest of the road, especially those where manual repairs in remote areas are expensive,” the report said.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) currently maintains eight FAST installations across the province, but only one in its northern region: Burk’s Falls near the southern border of the Northeast region, the report said.

Another option is to use sensors to determine safer, slower speed limits during bad weather. The system, called Dynamic Speed ​​Limiting (DSL), will adjust the speed limit to match current road conditions. Drivers will be forced to slow down, resulting in fewer crashes. The system can send weather information to the operator, who can manually adjust the speed limit, or use technology to automatically change the speed limit, the report said.

The report says DSL has been successfully implemented on British Columbia roads, similar to those in northern Ontario. A study conducted in 2021 examined the impact of DSL on rural, undivided two-lane highways and divided four-lane highways in winter (October-March). DSL was found to reduce collision frequency by 35 percent, the report said.

Dunstan believes that DSL could be easily implemented given that weather sensors are already installed on highways in northern Ontario. In the report, Dunstan noted that “on some northern highways, half of all crashes and an equal proportion of fatal crashes occurred during periods of snow and ice.”

Section speed control is another option described in the report. It said that instead of using speed cameras to monitor vehicle speed at one location, the cameras could be spaced a few kilometers apart to monitor the speed of vehicles on that stretch of highway.

Studies in other jurisdictions have found that segment control can reduce the incidence of serious crashes, injuries and fatalities from 30% to 50%.

“Drivers are more likely to comply with lower speed limits if they know their speed will be monitored on extended stretches of road,” the report said.

The fourth option outlined in the report is about creating a wooden pad road. This option indicates the need for more all-weather roads to serve small and rural communities in the Far North. Many existing winter roads don’t last long enough, and with climate change, most winter roads will last for weeks rather than months, the report said. This is especially important in areas with wetlands and musk.

This will make mat roads viable, as they have a lower environmental impact and are much cheaper to build and maintain than traditional gravel roads, the report said.

The report concluded that the Ontario government should seriously consider options for improving safety and commit to more funding for research.

“To improve road safety in the north, the Ontario government should implement proven smart road technology on many sections of the highway. In addition, the government should provide support for further research and trials to assist in the development of equally promising but less mature roads. construction technology.”

This is the second NPI report in months recommending changes to government policy to improve highways in northern Ontario. A report released in September – Saving Lives and Money: 2 + 1 Roads – spoke about the importance of creating a two-lane major highway in the north to save lives.

— Sudbury Net

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