MTO needs to make winter improvements along Highway 21
By Liz Dadson


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There's a well-known phrase that states: "The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing."

It actually stems from the Bible: Matthew 6:3 (King James Version), and meant that you should not give yourself credit for providing charity to others - just give and forget about it.

That view was reiterated by Henry Thoreau in his "Walden; or life in the Woods" (1854), which states: "If you should ever be betrayed into any of these philanthropies, do not let your left hand know what your right hand does, for it is not worth knowing."

The original meaning of the phrase is now lost and is currently used to suggest that, in business, you should keep your interests independent of each other.

In a more derogatory tone, the phrase is often used when one person in a group or organization is saying one thing, while someone else in the same group or organization is doing something completely opposite.

And nowhere is this more rampant than in government.

If you were one of the poor souls stuck at work or at home or on the roadway during that delightful winter storm that hit this area last month, you already know that Highway 21 continues to be the most-closed road in Ontario.

What adds insult to injury is that the Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO) spent the entire summer and fall fixing up the section of Highway 21 between Kincardine and Tiverton. And that section was closed the longest - Dec. 13-17 - because of blowing and drifting snow.

And what's even more insulting, is that two years ago, the MTO had open houses and public consultation before it even began that project. John Q. Public and municipal officials from Kincardine, Saugeen Shores, Huron-Kinloss and Bruce County - dozens and dozens of people - told the MTO that the main problem along that stretch of highway is the lack of trees or snow fence to stop the wind from blowing across the road.

The MTO, along with the Ontario agriculture ministry, natural resources ministry, Conservation Ontario and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, has developed a farm windbreak program to improve the safety and maintenance of highways and cut back on the snow accumulation due to blowing and drifting snow.

Bruce Power has been involved in this initiative, through its Living Snow Fence project, for the past several years.

According to the MTO, blowing and drifting snow is responsible for about 30 per cent of plowing, salting and sanding, or about $3,000 per two-lane kilometre per year in winter maintenance in rural areas.

During the winter of 2009-2010, ministry maintenance staff in West Region experienced the benefits of farm windbreaks firsthand. “The snow that is trapped by living snow fences is snow that doesn’t reach the roadway and build up the snowbanks," said maintenance co-ordinator Tom Reid. "Less snow on the highway means fewer snowplow and sander trips as well as less material used." 

Additional benefits include decreased accidents, fewer road closures, and reduced corrosion of steel and bridge structures due to salt.



Snow squalls on Highway 21, Dec. 13, 2010

So, the left hand is saying, "Yes, we need farm windbreaks and we need to stop the blowing and drifting snow."

Meanwhile, the right hand, which was in charge of the reconstruction of Highway 21 between Kincardine and Tiverton, dictated that all winter improvement measures be removed from the project because they were too expensive.

Despite the input from the public, despite the arguments from municipal officials, despite the realization that Highway 21 is the most-closed road in Ontario - as documented by the OPP.

The MTO is coming back this year to finish Highway 21 between Tiverton and Kincardine. It should be forced to reinstate the winter improvements so motorists in the rural area don't have to continually deal with zero visibility and blowing and drifting snow.

Then the ministry can use this as a learning experience for when it moves on to its next project: Highway 21 between Tiverton and Port Elgin.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011