MTO Reports to County on 401 in Winter

At the County Council meeting on January 24, MTO made a presentation that described traffic, accidents, closures, snow clearing, maintenance goals and construction projects.  It generally covered the Eastern Region which extends from Port Hope through Northumberland to the Quebec border.  The MTO does not get much publicity so I have listed below the highlights of the presentation as they affect Northumberland.  But they do try to keep us informed with their kiosks at ONRoute service Stations, using a Twitter account and various web sites.  Kathryn Moore from the Ministry of Transportation made the presentation.  The photo shown below was originally captioned as being in Toronto – but I’m not sure which highway it is nor even if it’s MOT – although it is representative!


Average Daily Traffic – Port Hope

Annual Summer Winter Trucks
2012 2016 2012 2016 2012 2016 2016
48,100 50,800 58,200 61,900 40,900 43,200 21%

Collisions 2012 thru 2016

Collisions 1,803
Collisions/km 28.2
Collisions per million Vehicle Km
2015 provincial freeways average

Full Closures 2012 to 2016

No planned closures in Northumberland

Unplanned Closures through the 64Km of 401 in Northumberland

Collisions 38
Tractor-Trailer Removals 3
Miscellaneous 6
       Total Unplanned Closures 47
Direction of Unplanned Closures 25 EB
15 WB
7 Both


Northumberland Locations of Full Closures

Exit 461 (Port Hope) to 464 (Port Hope) 5 to 8 closures
Exit 464 (Port Hope) to 474 (Division St Cobourg) 1 to 4 closures
Exit 474 (Cobourg) to 487 (Grafton) 9 to 12 closures
Exit 487 (Grafton) to 497 (Colborne) 1 to 4 closures
Exit 497 (Colborne) to 509 (Brighton) 9 to 12 closures

Recent technology enhancements

MTO have provided several additions to the Compass system in use for many years – Compass now provides traffic cameras in the GTA and Kingston but not Northumberland.  However, the Low Visibility Warning System (LVWS), Track My Plow and the Twitter enhancements do include our area.

Low Visibility Warning System

Snow Plows in Toronto
Snow Plows in Toronto
  • One of a kind system for MTO
  • Located in an area of Highway 401 in Northumberland County that is especially prone to snow streamers off Lake Ontario creating white out conditions (Nagle Road to Percy Street)
  • When reduced visibility is detected the system automatically triggers flashing lights on these signs (3 sets of signs)
  • Portable Variable Message Signs at either end of the installation (1 PVMS sign in each direction)
  • MTO and our contractor receive notification when the system activates.
  • The intent of the system is to influence driver behavior when reduced visibility is detected.
  • This system is a trial project; the ministry is monitoring and will consider expanding and/or enhancing the system.

Track My Plow

Go to to see where plows are in near real time (on Provincial highways only).  Or at interactive kiosks at ONroute Centres


Proactive communication includes an active Twitter account:
Or search for @511ONEastern

Winter Maintenance

In 2014, MTO got blasted for doing a poor job and as a result they have improved the requirements of the contractors (Report from October 2014 here)

MTO requirements

  • 401 through Cobourg has a winter maintenance standard of Class 1 which means that following a winter event, there should be bare pavement within 8 hours
  • Deployment of plows (upon accumulation of 2cm of snow)
  • Spreading sand/salt (within 30 minutes of arrival of storm)
  • Address isolated slippery sections
  • Post storm clean-up (shoulders, median cross-overs, banks, commuter parking lots)

DLA (Direct Liquid Application)
Now used some of the time.

  • Anti-icing liquids can be placed prior to snow, freezing rain or in frost susceptible areas (bridge decks)
  • Remains on surface to melt initial precipitation and prevent the snow or ice from sticking to the surface
  • Used more often in southern Ontario where temperatures are milder
  • Used primarily at beginning or end of winter in Ontario

Highway 401 Projects [Northumberland section]

  • Six-laning underway from 1 km west of Burnham Street to 2 km east of Nagle Road in Cobourg area
  • Planning studies underway for six-laning from Nagle Road through Belleville
  • Underpass bridge replacements – lengthened to accommodate future six-laning

The fact that County Council gets a report by MTO seems also to be a result of the criticism they got in 2013/14.


Download the full presentation documents


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6 years ago

Yesterday, I entered the Westbound 401 from Exit 474 at 12:30 pm. The road was snowcovered, with no sign of sand, salt , liquid spraying or plowing in evidence. Vehicular traffic had created tire tracks which straddled the white lane markings, occasionallyvisible through the ruts. Most drivers followed this “lane”. However, a potentially dangerous situation arose when transport drivers decided where the actual lanes were and passed vehicles following the ruts spanning 2 lanes – and at what seemed a high speed for the conditions. But that wasn’t the most frustrating part of the drive; as soon as I reached the Bondhead exit(440), the road conditions improved noticeably where plowing and salting had occurred and driving conditions were so much safer. Why can’t we have the same contractor maintain the Cobourg strip of the highway & prevent this situation reoccurring year after year?

Walter Luedtke
6 years ago

Our area of the #401 (Kingston West) is maintained by Carillion Canada.
Carillion Canada is a wholly owned subsidiary of Carillion UK.
“That British construction and outsourcing company collapsed on Jan. 15 under the weight of at least 2.2 billion pounds in debt and pension liabilities in Britain’s biggest corporate failure in a decade.”
Carillion Canada is the country’s largest road service contractor, responsible for plowing and maintenance along 40,000 kilometres of highways in Ontario and Alberta.
There have been frequent complaints about Carillion’s work on our roads.
According to the Ontario Public Accounts 2016-17, the Ministry of Transportation paid just over $128.7 million to Carillion Canada Inc. for its services that year.
“Conservative and Liberal governments privatized critical public assets by signing us on to decades-long contracts with Carillion, shelling out billions of dollars. With Carillion folding, 6,000 jobs, billions of dollars and critical public services are all at risk.” Andrea Horwath. Peterborough Examiner

Walter Luedtke
Reply to  Walter Luedtke
6 years ago

For more information on what is at stake in “Public-Private Partnerships”, such as Carillion’s snow ploughing, there is some background here:
Should make interesting reading for my Cobourg Taxpayers Association friends who keep going on about business plans and how much more efficient private business is compared to government.

Reply to  Walter Luedtke
6 years ago

Ah yes, the unbiased, objective views of Warren Thomas. Give the keys to “Smokey the Fox” who will undoubtedly protect our hen house. Do you think Mr. Thomas really cares about our highways or that he sees an opportunity for some empire building here.
Your link didn’t work for me, try this one (but it is nice to see you are finally starting to give references to your sources rather than just a cut/paste job and inadvertently presenting their opinions/content as your own):

Walter Luedtke
Reply to  Frenchy
6 years ago

Smiles and waves.
Yes, I admit it. I like to use quotes in my posts and I read full-sized newspapers to find those quotes. You should try reading a newspaper too.
And further,
Yes! Warren Thomas set his real name and occupation to that opinion piece in the Globe.
You should try that too.

Reply to  Frenchy
6 years ago

Stop the union bashing and look at the topic. Carrillion does a really crappy job and prefers to pay fines to evade performance marks. BTW carrillion is not unionised. Miller is and does a great job to the West of us.

6 years ago

The low visibility warning system does not work. I’ve seen it on once and that was during a sunny day during perfect conditions. I drive this stretch back and forth to work everyday.

6 years ago

There is a huge discrepancy in the way various companies maintain their section of the 401. As a commuter I see this each and every day. The section from Newtonville through Oshawa/Whitby is usually much better maintained in snow/ice than Cobourg to Newtonville. It’s like night and day. Miller (the company that does The western section) does a great job for the most part. I wish they did our area as well.

Margaret Robb
Reply to  Nursedude
6 years ago

Agree – it’s like passing into a different climate zone – the same, year after year

Reply to  Nursedude
6 years ago

I am a frequent driver of the 401 between Toronto and Cobourg

Part of the problem with the inconsistency in plowing between Miller (Newtonville through Oshawa/Whitby) and Carillon east of Newtonville may be that in the Carillon sector the 401 is two lanes east of Cobourg, and three lanes west of Cobourg. Carillion, (or whoever has taken over), plowing the 401 having set up for two lanes east of Cobourg, suddenly find themselves with an extra lane to plow just prior to Cobourg. At that point Carillon has a dilemma – do they add a plow or carry on clearing the the three lane sector with the equipment that they have on the road for the two lane highway..

I would suggest that they do not the add the required plow for three lanes, and simply omit plowing the outer lane from East of Cobourg to Newtonville. It never appears to be cleared early in the cleaning cycle, leaving just two lanes open. Once Newonville is reached then Miller has the equipment for three lanes.