Draft Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy

DRAFT 2041 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy

July 2017

The comment period for the Draft 2041 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy closed on
September 15, 2017. Thank you to all who provided your input.

Acknowledgements

The Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines would like to acknowledge the significant time and input from hundreds of organizations and people, including other governments, who have been involved in the development of the draft Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy. In particular, we would also like to thank members of the Strategy’s Public Sector, Private Sector and Indigenous Technical committees, who have provided data, guidance and advice that has been essential to developing a draft Strategy.

Thank you to the many other Province of Ontario ministries and departments, and to IBI Group, the project consultants, who have contributed to developing the technical analysis and draft Strategy. The draft Strategy would not have been possible without all of this collaborative input.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Vision, Goals and Directions

Implementation

Appendix: Path to a Draft Strategy

Cross-Cutting Summaries

Indigenous Peoples

Winter Roads

Expanded All Season Road Network

Climate Change

List of Figures

Figure 1: Northern Ontario Transportation Infrastructure

Figure 2: Intercommunity Passenger Bus Service and Railways in Northern Ontario

Figure 3: Potential Locations for Highway Reliability and Capacity Improvements

Figure 4: Potential Preferred Route for Oversize/Overweight Commercial Vehicles

Figure 5: Northern Ontario’s Municipal Airports with Aerial Firefighting and Policing Operations (2015 Municipal Airports Survey Results)

Figure 6: Fixed-Wing Air Ambulance Patient Transfers and Helipad Locations

Figure 7: Existing Freight Rail Lines and Potential Locations for New Rail-Truck Hubs in Northern Ontario

Figure 8: Tourist Travel Flows across Northern Ontario Border Crossings and Selected Provincial Highway Sites, 2011-2012

Figure 9: Existing and Potential Locations for Changeable Message Signs and Areas of Limited Cell Coverage along the Primary Highway Network in Northern Ontario

Figure 10: Highway Segments with Gaps in Provision of Rest Areas and Safe Pull-Offs and Priority Locations for Rest Area Improvements

Figure 11: Intercommunity Bus Service and Bus Stop Infrastructure in Northern Ontario

Figure 12: First Nation Registered Population on own Reserve and Remote Airports

Figure 13: Kingfisher and North Caribou Winter Road Corridors

Figure 14: Potential Routes for Innovative Goods Movement in the Far North

Figure 15: Priority Locations for Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Initiatives

Introduction

Transportation infrastructure and services in northern Ontario—roads, winter roads, rail, air and waterways—provide vital connections for residents, tourists and businesses to local and regional service and employment hubs, other communities and the rest of the world.

This draft 2041 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy (the draft Strategy) was developed by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) to guide transportation policy, program and investment opportunities for a modern and sustainable transportation system in northern Ontario. MTO and MNDM are seeking public comments and feedback on the goals and directions included in this document, to inform work towards the final Strategy and Action Plans.

The final Strategy will support economic development in northern Ontario and the implementation of the transportation policies in the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario 2011. It will help ensure that the transportation system—including infrastructure, policies, services, information and partnerships—is improved and managed in a way that supports northern prosperity over the coming 25 years.

Northern Ontario — Context and Transportation System

Northern Ontario covers over 802,000 km2 or almost 90 per cent of Ontario’s land mass. It is home to approximately 808,000 people. Over half of northern Ontario’s population lives in its large urban centres, the largest of which are the cities of Greater Sudbury (165,000 population), Thunder Bay (114,000) and Sault Ste. Marie (77,000).

More than one-third of the province’s Indigenous population lives in northern Ontario: approximately 42,000 individuals live on one of 118 First Nation reserves and about 63,000 live off-reserve. Roughly 24,000 residents of northern Ontario live in the Far North, the majority of which live in remote communities where access to other communities is challenging.

Over the next 25 years, the population of northern Ontario is expected to be relatively stable overall. Larger urban centres are projected to experience either moderate growth or steady to declining populations and the Indigenous population is expected to continue to increase.

Northern Ontario has a diverse, multimodal transportation system that includes roads, rail, air and marine transportation, public transit and intercommunity bus services and active transportation. Figure 1 shows the existing transportation infrastructure that supports the system.

Figure 1: Northern Ontario Transportation Infrastructure
This map shows the roads, railways and airports that make up northern Ontario’s transportation system. Roads are classified as primary, secondary and other all-season or winter roads. International road border crossings are noted. Active railways are distinguished by owner. Airports are classified as remote, municipal or international. Marine features include major ports, other ports and provincial ferries. The Far North boundary is shown, as are approximate southern limits of permafrost.

The provincial highway network is the backbone for travel in northern Ontario. It is supplemented with local municipal roads and industrial roads. Additionally, winter roads are constructed each year to provide access to some remote communities, typically between mid-January and March or April.

Northern Ontario’s rugged topography, dense forest cover, patchy permafrost and many lakes and swampy areas make construction, maintenance and operation of roads, rail lines and airports challenging and expensive. Marine travel can also be challenging since the water in Hudson Bay and James Bay freezes quickly in the winter.

Northern Ontario’s multimodal transportation system supports an estimated $34 billion (2011) in regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP), including traditional resource-based sectors (e.g., forestry, mining, agriculture, manufacturing and tourism) producing goods and services that are consumed both domestically and internationally. As northern Ontario industries continue to innovate and diversify into additional value-added products, a modern and efficient multimodal transportation system is critical to supporting industries that compete in local markets and on a global scale.

Transportation is also a central issue for Far North communities, the majority of which are First Nations communities. In these communities, transportation access is limited to winter roads, year-round rail service to Moosonee and remote airports. Additionally, long distances between communities and severe weather conditions make daily travel costly and uncertain. This impacts the quality of life in some communities.

The aging population across northern Ontario is expected to create increased demand for accessible, reliable transportation to access health care and social services, and to support travel for leisure activities. At the same time, the Indigenous population comprises a younger demographic than the region’s general population and workforce. Thus, serving work trips, as well as supporting access to education and training will continue to be ongoing priorities for transportation planning.

Key Facts About Northern Ontario
11,000
kilometres of provincial highways
3,160
kilometres of winter roads
8,200
kilometres of rail lines
3
major ports
67
public airports
$34B
estimated GDP of northern Ontario in 2011 (about 5% of Ontario’s total GDP)
For More Information…
For more information about northern Ontario’s geography and socio-economic context refer to the resources posted on nomts.ca. Detailed maps of Ontario’s First Nation communities and treaty areas are available at ontario.ca/page/ontario-first-nations-maps.

About the Draft Strategy

The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario 2011 identified the need for the Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy:

Efficient, modern infrastructure is critical to Northern Ontario’s future. Transportation infrastructure connects communities within the north to one another and to the rest of the world. Northerners often need to travel great distances to access work, education and health services. Northern businesses need to be able to reach markets around the world. For Northern Ontario’s remote communities, winter roads and air transportation are vital lifelines for fuel, food, basic amenities and access to education, health and emergency services. An integrated, long-term transportation plan is needed to maintain and enhance the north’s transportation infrastructure and to improve connectivity among the various modes of travel.1

Through outreach and technical analysis in the development of this draft Strategy, it became evident that residents and businesses in northern Ontario will face unique transportation challenges over the next 25 years. These challenges include:

  • Maintaining and enhancing connections among major centres and to global markets is important to supporting economic development and quality of life.
  • Transportation safety and reliability is especially critical for northern Ontario residents and businesses given the long distances between communities, dispersed populations and long cold winters. This means a breakdown could be not just inconvenient, but costly.
  • Climate change is expected to have a fundamental impact on the transportation system in northern Ontario through severe weather and unsuitable conditions for winter roads, which will have a disproportionate impact on the Far North and its many remote communities.
  • The pristine natural environment and stunning vistas of northern Ontario are a unique asset, one with which many residents have a special connection. Improving transportation in a way that reduces impacts on the environment is especially important.
  • The provision of transportation infrastructure and services in northern Ontario will need to keep pace with new ways of doing business. Technology has already changed the way northern Ontarians access services and has the potential to help address many of the anticipated challenges noted above.

To address these challenges, the draft Strategy sets out a vision and five goals to improve and transform the transportation system over the next 25 years (see Vision, Goals and Directions). The goals are supported by 37 directions to guide the creation of the multimodal transportation system of the future. These build upon the solid foundation of today’s system, and the significant investments made in northern Ontario infrastructure and programming to date. To achieve these directions, actions are either already underway or being considered.

When the final Strategy is released at the end of 2017, it is intended that a more detailed Action Plan will also be released.

Elements of the draft Strategy are shown as a series of rectangles, each successive element wider than the previous one. The succession of elements is as follows: Vision; 5 Goals; 37 Directions; and Future Actions.

Throughout the document, the draft Strategy includes icons representing six cross-cutting topics to help identify potential topics of interest for different readers.

Icon Potential Topics of Interest
Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivity Passenger Transportation and Connectivity
Directions to enhance intercommunity transportation and travel connectivity between communities
Cross-cutting icon for goods movement and economic development Goods Movement and Economic Development
Directions to improve the efficiency and reliability of goods transport across all modes
Cross-cutting icon for traveller information Traveller Information
Directions to expand the availability and delivery of information for travellers and related technology
Cross-cutting icon for environmental sustainability Environmental Sustainability
Directions to create a cleaner transportation system, increase the use of renewable energy and reduce impacts to human health and the natural environment
Cross-cutting icon for active transportation Active Transportation
Directions to increase cycling opportunities along highways, in municipalities and First Nation communities
Cross-cutting icon for tourism Tourism
Directions to improve the tourist experience and support the tourism sector across the region

The draft Strategy aligns with other Ontario government initiatives to help ensure efforts are coordinated. Each individual direction in this draft Strategy is intended to help improve transportation infrastructure and services and ensure that northern Ontario continues to have a modern and efficient transportation system.

Achieving the vision of the draft Strategy will require collaboration among many partners. Work on the draft Strategy has involved meaningful collaboration among the complex mix of jurisdictions that own, operate and maintain the infrastructure and services underpinning the transportation system in northern Ontario: federal and provincial governments and their agencies, municipalities, First Nation and Métis communities, not-for-profit service organizations and private sector firms. New partnerships and collaborations have emerged. The efficiency of the transportation system is dependent on effective relationships and coordination among these partners.

The draft Strategy aims to help create and foster these partnerships to ensure an effective transportation system in northern Ontario well into the future.

Related Provincial Initiatives
The draft Strategy has been informed by and coordinated with the many Government of Ontario programs, policies, initiatives and strategies that complement and support improvements to northern Ontario’s transportation system:

Your Feedback is Needed

This draft is being distributed for public comment to help inform Ontario’s development of the final Strategy and Action Plan.

MTO and MNDM are seeking your feedback on the goals and directions in this draft Strategy.

  • Do they capture the key areas and partnerships needed to ensure that the transportation system in northern Ontario meets users’ needs over the next 25 years?
  • Recognizing that the strategy has a 25-year vision and that not everything can be achieved at once, tell us which directions are most important over the next ten years, to help focus the Action Plan.
Get Involved
Please send us your comments and feedback by September 15, 2017. There are many ways to participate:

Online: www.nomts.ca

Email: contact@nomts.ca

EBR: www.ebr.gov.on.ca (ID #013-0889)

Mail:
Draft 2041 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy
c/o Ministry of Northern Development and Mines
70 Foster Dr., Roberta Bondar Pl., Suite 200
Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 6V8

Twitter: Comment and tag @ONtransport

See www.ontario.ca/privacy for Ontario’s Privacy Statement, including what happens if you send us your personal information, such as your name or email address.

Vision, Goals and Directions

2041 Vision Statement:

Northern Ontario’s transportation system is responsive to economic, social and environmental needs and change, and is transformative in supporting new economic activity, healthy communities and a cleaner environment.

Achieving the vision for this draft Strategy will require an integrated and connected multimodal transportation system that is optimized for the safe and efficient movement of both people and goods. The system will include robust provincial highway infrastructure, which will enable a range of mobility options. These in turn will connect with a variety of transportation modes, destinations and economic enterprises and respond to the unique needs of northern Ontario’s vast geography, and near and Far North and coastal communities.

Transportation is closely linked to the quality of life of people living and working in northern Ontario and to the economic vibrancy of northern Ontario communities. This draft Strategy is aligned with related provincial plans and strategies and incorporates an integrated approach to addressing such government priorities as encouraging sustainable growth and economic prosperity, mitigating and adapting to climate change and supporting species and habitat diversity. Five interrelated goals underpin the draft Strategy and respond directly to the input of businesses and residents throughout the north.

For each goal, there is a set of detailed directions that take into account social, cultural, economic, environmental and technological considerations. In some sections of the draft Strategy, actions that are underway or already in development have been identified. Other potential actions still under consideration are also noted. Actions are either tailored to a pan-northern perspective or, as appropriate, targeted to address local circumstances and opportunities.

Goals of the Draft Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy:

Goal 1:

Connected and Prosperous

Increase and modernize transportation options to support everyday living and economic activity in northern Ontario.
Goal 2:

Safe and Reliable

Enhance traveller safety and system reliability and minimize travel delays and complications.
Goal 3:

Address Remote and Far North Challenges

Work with remote and Far North communities to address unique transportation needs with more reliable connections between communities and to the all-season ground transportation network.
Goal 4:

Integrated and Innovative

Anticipate and respond to economic, technological, environmental and social change to link people, resources and businesses.
Goal 5:

Healthy and Sustainable

Create a cleaner and more sustainable transportation system in northern Ontario by reducing GHG and other environmental and human health impacts.

Goal 1: Connected and Prosperous

Increase and modernize transportation options to support everyday living and economic activity in northern Ontario

A diverse multimodal system will continue to be needed to support a high quality of life in northern Ontario. The northern Ontario economy relies on moving resources and goods to their destinations efficiently, and a transportation system that is supportive of economic development. To meet current and future needs for passenger travel and goods movement, this draft Strategy sets out directions to increase options and improve transportation services for everyday living, and to facilitate economic development opportunities in northern Ontario. These directions are responsive to the needs of those who live, work and play in northern Ontario—Indigenous peoples and communities, municipalities, businesses, industry, remote settlements, vulnerable populations and tourists. All modes have an important role to play in supporting a well-integrated passenger and freight transportation system.

For most residents and industries in northern Ontario, the highway network is the mainstay of daily travel, outside of bulk freight shipments by rail or marine. Ontario continues to invest strongly in provincial highways and bridges in northern Ontario, spending $550 million in 2016/17 on repair and expansion.2 Considerations and proposed priorities for shaping future highway investments are found throughout this draft Strategy. This goal in particular addresses improved connectivity through increased capacity.

There are elements of the northern Ontario transportation system that do not meet the needs of northern Ontarians today. For example, increasing options for passenger travel requires more frequent bus service through new and modified service delivery, better alignment of routes and schedules and enhanced collaborations among local, regional and intercommunity service providers. Rail service improvements on existing rail corridors, in particular where other passenger transportation options are not available, are an important consideration in supporting the availability of passenger transportation services. International, municipal and remote airports have a critical role in the northern Ontario transportation system given the long travel distances between communities.

As described in the following directions and actions, this draft Strategy confirms Ontario’s commitment to supporting economic competitiveness and quality of life, for a connected and prosperous northern Ontario.

1.1 Establish a network of core intercommunity passenger bus services across northern Ontario, connecting major centres
Cross-cutting icon for tourismCross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivity

Many residents in northern Ontario are dependent upon intercommunity bus services—regularly scheduled motor coach services between regional centres—to access essential services. Over the past few decades, intercommunity bus service has been affected by reduced frequency, inconvenient schedules and poor connections in urban centres. For some communities, service has been discontinued all together. In particular, gaps in the core network exist from Fort Frances to Kenora and Dryden to Red Lake.

A core network of intercommunity passenger bus services that offers an increase in daytime pick-up and drop-off times is required to meet people’s needs. This would provide service between larger centres and/or along major provincial highways, and where feasible, same-day return travel options to and from regional centres. Figure 2 shows existing core intercommunity bus service routes, as well as locations where there is limited or no bus service.

Figure 2: Intercommunity Passenger Bus Service and Railways in Northern Ontario
This map shows the routes of inter-community bus services in northern Ontario. Portions of the rail network that carry passenger trains in addition to freight are highlighted. The Alogoma Central rail line is labelled. The map also highlights priority routes for additional bus service.

Currently, intercommunity bus service in northern Ontario is provided by both public and private operators and regulated by the provincial government. The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC), a provincial agency, is an important public provider of these services, specifically along main highways and corridors in northeastern Ontario. Operating conventional, market-based scheduled bus service that provides adequate services can be economically challenging for northern Ontario service providers given the long distances and dispersed population of the north.

Provision of new intercommunity bus services should include better coordination of travel schedules between modes and providers to optimize connections, as well as deployment of technology to ensure the services are modern and reliable. For example, expanded use of automatic vehicle location systems for real-time reporting of expected arrival times would greatly increase travellers’ convenience.

This draft Strategy recognizes the importance of intercommunity bus service and connections. As service improves, better scheduled and more seamless connections will be possible for bus users to transfer to and from other modes such as air or rail.

Action Underway

  • The Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines are developing recommendations on an improved intercommunity bus regime. The recommendations will give special consideration to the needs of those northern, rural and First Nation communities where intercommunity bus service is not currently in line with demand.
1.2 Connect and improve community transportation services and make them available to more people
Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivity

In many northern Ontario communities, it is local community organizations, health and social service agencies that provide transportation services for their clients to specific destinations, using their own vehicles or private operators such as taxi services.

These community-based transportation services are a critical link to meet the local transportation needs within small and rural communities, particularly where there is limited or no public transit available. However, these services are not yet widespread, and are often limited to those with specialized transportation needs, such as seniors and people travelling for medical appointments, unlike conventional transit services that are open to everyone.

MTO has provided a Community Transportation Pilot Grant Program in recent years, which has demonstrated the need and value of these types of services. The program helped municipalities and local transportation providers coordinate their services. In April 2017, MTO extended program funding to current recipients to allow municipalities and their partners to continue accessing provincial funding for their community transportation services for an additional year, making better use of existing services, sharing resources and increasing mobility options in communities.

This direction to expand and improve community transportation services is critical to support daily living in northern Ontario. This will enable small-scale, customized practical solutions to increase mobility to be more widely adopted. Furthermore, a coordinated transportation program can help communities and local transportation providers better organize and manage their services so that vehicles and other resources that belong to one community organization can be shared with other organizations to increase and improve overall service.

Community transportation services can supplement conventional transit with more daytime pick-up and drop-off times and schedules that allow for more flexibility for target populations.

Action Underway

  • Operating funding for the Ontario Community Transportation Pilot Grant Program has been extended for one year, to March 31, 2018.
1.3 Reinvigorate passenger rail service where appropriate
Cross-cutting icon for environmental sustainability Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivityCross-cutting icon for tourism

Passenger rail services and ridership have declined over the past few decades as the provincial highway network has improved and travel patterns have changed, making travel by car and bus faster and more convenient. Rail ridership has declined even more steeply in the last 10 years due to service reductions, inconvenient service hours, and lengthy distances and poor connections between urban centres and stations.

Passenger rail in northern Ontario serves a number of functions. For example, the Polar Bear Express from Cochrane to Moosonee, operated by Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC), provides an essential service, where no other year-round ground transportation options exist. VIA Rail, a federal crown corporation, also provides interprovincial and intraprovincial passenger rail service through northern Ontario. Trips by passenger rail may provide a viable alternative to highway trips where a rail line exists, where it can provide more direct access than other modes and where sufficient passenger demand exists. Rail service in these situations could reduce road infrastructure and maintenance costs as well as decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as compared to private automobiles.

There is also potential for passenger rail to support local economic development, particularly where communities are interested in partnering to operate a service. For example, the Missanabie Cree First Nation is currently preparing a business case to restore passenger rail service from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst on the Algoma Central Railway (ACR). (See Figure 2 for the location of existing rail including the Algoma Central Rail line.)

The draft Strategy recognizes that new and improved passenger rail service could become a reality, where a viable business case and sufficient passenger travel demand exist, and should be fully explored by service providers. Ontario will work with the federal government to review and evaluate rail service business cases, where appropriate.

Sample Action under Consideration

  • Continue to explore practical opportunities for how and where new or modified passenger rail services could enhance the regional intercommunity transportation network.
1.4 Four-lane or twin segments of the Trans-Canada Highway to improve reliability of travel
Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivityCross-cutting icon for goods movement and economic development

The construction of the Trans-Canada Highway was a federal-provincial post-war initiative to build a continuous east-west highway from coast to coast to support economic development. Northern Ontario highways, including the Trans-Canada Highway, are important economic corridors. In 2012, 54,000 commercial vehicles carrying $1.24-billion value of goods travelled on highways in northern Ontario on a weekly basis.

Highways 11 and 17 represent a large portion of the Trans-Canada Highway through northern Ontario. They are generally two lanes wide with some provision for climbing and passing lanes. Travel can be severely impeded when critical sections are temporarily closed due to collisions, weather conditions, flooding or other incidents.

There are four segments of the Trans-Canada Highway in northern Ontario that have no alternative route options during closures:

  • Highway 11/17: Thunder Bay to Nipigon – 103 km
  • Highway 11/17: Sistonen’s to Shabaqua (west of Thunder Bay) – 21 km
  • Highway 17: 2 km east of Highway 71 westerly – 4 km
  • Highway 17: Manitoba to Kenora – 39 km.

When any of these segments is fully closed, significant and costly travel delays result for people and industry, and there are also increased emergency management risks.

This draft Strategy identifies these four segments as priority areas to advance four-laning and twinning on the Trans-Canada Highway, as shown in Figure 3. Given the critical interprovincial travel function provided by the Trans-Canada Highway, Ontario will work closely with the federal government to discuss partnership in addressing these gaps. (See direction 1.5 for additional discussion on provincial highway network capacity.)

Action Underway

  • MTO has begun important planning studies for improving three of the four segments. As funding is available, MTO will advance more detailed planning and design work for these critical links.
1.5 Increase highway capacity based on travel demand, safety objectives and other applicable standards, to support efficient goods movement and passenger travel
Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivityCross-cutting icon for goods movement and economic development

Traffic forecasts completed for the draft Strategy found that over the next 25 years commercial vehicle flows will drive the overall growth in traffic volumes on the highway network—especially on the Trans-Canada Highway in northern Ontario—and will largely determine where capacity improvements should be focused. The Trans-Canada Highway plays a key role in enabling interprovincial and international trade. Ontario will work with the federal government as a key partner for future capacity improvements on the Trans-Canada Highway.

As of 2012, commercial vehicles represent 10 per cent of the trips using the northern Ontario highway network, and this number will grow to 14 per cent by 2041. This increase will have greater proportional impact than forecasts for passenger vehicle volumes, as trucks travel extremely long distances. A high proportion of trucks can be frustrating to passenger vehicle drivers when there are limited passing opportunities.

Areas such as those west of Thunder Bay will experience some of the largest increases in commercial vehicle flows from 2011 to 2041. These areas should be a focus of highway capacity planning. In addition, in locations with previously documented needs, such as the Cochrane area, improvements are required to connect provincial highways, serve the growing resource industry and support multi-modal access.

Figure 3 illustrates some of these priority areas.

Figure 3: Potential Locations for Highway Reliability and Capacity Improvements
This map shows the four priority areas for advancing four-laning and twinning; these are along the Trans-Canada highway near Thunder Bay and near Kenora. Potential priority locations for future highway capacity improvements are shown near Sudbury, North Bay, Thunder Bay and Kenora. A location at Cochrane is highlighted for support for multi-modal access.

Over the implementation period of the final Strategy, Ontario will continue to make investments, based on relevant standards and guidelines, to enhance, expand and/or improve capacity, to respond to traffic volume growth as well as other factors such as community well-being and industry needs.

Sample Actions Underway

  • MTO has completed a feasibility study and is beginning planning and design work for the Cochrane Bypass project from Hwy 11 to Hwy 652 to address safety and provincial highway continuity concerns in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
  • MTO, with MNDM and local partners, will continue to focus planning studies on:
    • strategic routes in the vicinity of North Bay, Sudbury and Thunder Bay to ensure that the province is positioned to increase capacity as required;
    • other components of the five-year Northern Highways Program; and
    • improvements in urban areas, such as bypasses or highway twinning, as appropriate.
1.6 Align infrastructure standards and maintenance service levels with increasing commercial vehicle usage along corridors that are essential for current and future goods movement
Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivityCross-cutting icon for goods movement and economic development

A strong and connected provincial highway network for goods movement requires that as infrastructure (e.g., roads and bridges) along strategic corridors is rehabilitated or maintained, it should be done with future uses in mind.

Mining and other resource-based activities are a foundation of the northern Ontario economy. This draft Strategy supports upgrades that may be required over time to bridges and major gravel/surface-treated highways and roads to accommodate heavy trucks accessing mines and other resource-based activities.

Upgrades could be required for some new mines in northern Ontario, such as New Gold’s Rainy River project and Goldcorp’s Cochenour projects, which are moving closer to becoming operational. Upgrades could also support links to future expansions being considered such as the Ring of Fire transportation network. (In addition, network planning for potential new all-season roads into the Far North as described in direction 3.6, could support improved access to these resource sites.)

Some roads in the north that link to the provincial highway network have the potential to serve as detour routes for current and future goods movement. These roads are not owned by the province but serve a time-saving and critical function in the movement of goods and people throughout northern Ontario. This draft Strategy will seek to ensure the appropriate responsibilities and standards for these roads are implemented and maintained.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Review maintenance and servicing activities on provincial highway corridors, as well as other priority roads in northern Ontario outside of the provincial highway network, that are essential to supporting resource movements.
  • Determine whether there are any appropriate locations where MTO should assume selected forest access, resource, or industrial roads into the provincial highway network to ensure appropriate long-term usage and maintenance.
1.7 Establish a preferred highway route for oversize/overweight (O/O) commercial vehicles and support appropriate O/O movements
Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivityCross-cutting icon for goods movement and economic development

Oversize and overweight loads play a unique role in enabling economic activity and growth across Canada. Some industries, including mines, wind farms, oil sands developments in Western Canada and even breweries require shipments of specialized equipment that cannot fit on a standard truck trailer or rail car. Oversize/Overweight (O/O) vehicles3 play a critical role in supporting growth in these types of industries. In some cases, however, they require special accommodations when travelling along the highway network, such as escort vehicles and the rerouting of overhead power lines. In addition, certain routes are difficult for these vehicles to travel due to reduced highway widths and reduced capacity of bridges and/or overpasses.

Overweight vehicles create additional wear on road infrastructure, which must be built strong enough to withstand the extra loading. Identifying preferred routes should consider the load-bearing capacity of the road infrastructure. Many highway sections in northern Ontario are only two lanes wide, which is a concern for slow-moving long-distance oversize traffic. These loads may require temporary highway closures when they are travelling to ensure the safety of all road users.

As committed in the 2015 Fall Economic Statement, MTO has worked with stakeholders to develop more options for escorting O/O vehicles, and for streamlining the approval process including enhanced permitting options.

This draft Strategy proposes that an O/O preferred route be identified and supported along Highway 11 from North Bay to Thunder Bay and Highway 17 from Thunder Bay to Manitoba (see Figure 4 for the potential route). Increased passing lane frequencies would also reduce frustrations for other vehicles who share the road with O/O vehicles along these routes.

Figure 4: Potential Preferred Route for Oversize/Overweight Commercial Vehicles
This map shows the Potential Route for permitted Oversize or Overweight Commercial Vehicles along the Trans-Canada highway, identified in the draft Strategy. The route runs from North Bay to Thunder Bay along Highway 11, and from Thunder Bay to Manitoba along Highway 17.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Confirm the preferred route and identify priority locations where enhanced traffic staging accommodations for O/O vehicles could be implemented when highway rehabilitation takes place.
  • Incorporate passing lane needs and considerations along the preferred corridor into capacity improvement planning discussed under direction 1.5.
1.8 Improve quality of roads outside of the provincial highway network that connect to First Nation communities, where appropriate
Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivity

Thousands of kilometres of roads in northern Ontario fall outside of MTO’s jurisdiction, including a number of roads used by First Nation communities for access between their communities and provincial highway routes. These roads may include resource access roads, municipal roads and roads maintained by First Nations themselves.

A variety of agencies and service delivery partners may be involved in the maintenance of all-season roads that connect First Nation communities to the provincial highway network, resulting in uncertainty regarding road governance, enhancements and maintenance. Overwhelmingly, Indigenous communities indicated they are seeking enhancements to roads that connect their communities to the broader highway network, from surface treatment to improved maintenance during the winter. They are also seeking economic opportunities for First Nation businesses to undertake the related road work.

There are 70 roads that connect First Nation communities to the provincial highway network; these connecting roads range between 6 and 74 km in length. In addition, 18 First Nation communities are connected by provincial highways that pass through or alongside their lands. (The locations and characteristics of these roads can be found in Appendix A of the Highways and Roads Technical Backgrounder posted at www.nomts.ca.)

This draft Strategy recognizes the importance of roads connecting to First Nation communities and the need to continue to clarify responsibilities when maintenance or other issues arise. There are opportunities to work with partners, including federal partners, to improve the quality of these roads as required over time. Ontario will work with the federal government to clarify the core responsibilities for supporting the quality of these roads where they provide critical access to Indigenous communities.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Clarify jurisdiction, ownership and maintenance requirements of roads connecting the First Nation communities, working with Indigenous communities and, businesses and all applicable transportation partners.
  • Clarify governance, responsibility and funding for road connections that have been relinquished by businesses.
  • Identify approaches for greater inclusion of First Nations on road construction and maintenance procurements for these roads.
1.9 Increase and enhance economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples and businesses in government-related transportation activities, programs and projects

In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, Ontario has committed to moving forward in partnership with Indigenous peoples on the path to reconciliation.4 As part of this, Ontario has committed to engage with Indigenous partners on approaches to close socio-economic gaps and to enhance Indigenous participation in the resource sector.

MTO and MNDM have engaged Indigenous leaders, communities and organizations across northern Ontario throughout the development of this draft Strategy. The purpose of this engagement was to seek input from and share information with Indigenous peoples, as one of the primary users of the transportation network in the north, regarding transportation needs, priorities, opportunities and concerns, as well as to verify technical information and assist with developing the directions in this Strategy.

MTO works closely with Political Territorial Organizations (PTOs), which represent most First Nation communities in the study area. MTO provides funding to the PTOs to facilitate engagement efforts with their member communities on various MTO initiatives, such as this Strategy. Similarly, MTO works closely and provides funding to the Métis Nation of Ontario to facilitate engagement with Métis communities.

As part of finalizing and implementing the Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy, economic opportunities will arise for Indigenous people in northern Ontario. These could be employment opportunities,procurement activities related to transportation improvements/projects, and/or new transportation partnerships.

This is a cross-cutting direction. Together with other directions that seek to help improve Indigenous peoples’ everyday lives, these directions are intended to advance reconciliation. See the sum­mary below of components of this draft Strategy that affect and relate to Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Peoples
As residents and business owners in northern Ontario, Indigenous peoples experience the full range of transportation needs outlined in the draft Strategy. However, particular issues and opportunities were raised by Indigenous participants during outreach and engagement that require special attention. These include socio-economic disparities in transportation access, economic and job opportunities associated with transportation infrastructure and services, unique challenges of remote areas and deteriorating winter roads, coordinated planning for all-season roads where appropriate, environmental sustainability and protection and ensuring that transportation access does not negatively impact communities and rights.

While many of the directions in the draft Strategy address these matters, the following are particularly relevant:

  • Establish a network of core regional intercommunity passenger bus services across northern Ontario, connecting major centres (1.1)
  • Connect and improve community transportation services and make them available to more people (1.2)
  • Improve quality of roads outside of the provincial highway network that connect to First Nation communities, where appropriate. (1.8)
  • Increase and enhance economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples and businesses in government-related activities, programs and projects (1.9)
  • Increase the safety for people accessing intercommunity bus services in northern Ontario through provision of amenities that better meet user needs (2.5)
  • Renew remote airports’ basic infrastructure to support their essential functions (3.1)
  • Improve operational functions of remote airports including enhancing their reliability (3.2)
  • Enhance the quality of winter roads and extend their operating season through improved infrastructure, programs, maintenance and training (3.3)
  • Collaboratively pursue the expansion of the all-season road network in partnership with interested First Nation communities and other levels of government and partners (3.6)
  • Continue coordinated land use planning and transportation planning in the Far North, working collaboratively with First Nation communities and INAC (3.7)
  • Expand broadband infrastructure in rural and remote communities in northern Ontario to enable enhanced communications for people and transportation providers (4.1)
  • Increase the use of renewable energy throughout the northern transportation system, including for vehicular travel, at airports and in remote communities (5.2)
  • Increase awareness, prevention and response timing related to transport of dangerous goods and spills (5.4)
1.10 Support and enhance municipal airports’ role in helping to deliver important public services, connect people and move goods
Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivityCross-cutting icon for tourismCross-cutting icon for goods movement and economic development

Municipal airports move people and goods, help deliver vital public services and provide economic development opportunities. This draft Strategy recognizes that, without Ontario’s northern network of municipal airports, critical emergency services such as air-based patient transfers and forest fire fighting could be compromised. It also recognizes that these airports provide essential links between the Far North and the near north’s transportation networks. Given the number of remote First Nation communities in the Far North, and the federal responsibilities related to these communities and their residents, there is a federal interest in the viability of strategically located municipal airports that provide this essential function of connecting Ontario’s Far North to the rest of Ontario.

Many municipal airports do not generate adequate revenue from service fees to cover operating and long-term capital costs, and rely on federal and municipal transfers to continue operating. This often puts additional pressure on community budgets competing with road and other infrastructure priorities. Most operate in tenuous financial circumstances, especially smaller regional airports.

Ontario has been assessing options and criteria to potentially support municipal airports’ critical functions and their self-sustaining role in supporting economic development in northern Ontario (e.g., access to mines and mineral exploration sites). This work is ongoing.

Figure 5 shows municipal airports in northern Ontario, and illustrates the number of municipal airports that provide important firefighting and policing services.

Figure 5: Northern Ontario’s Municipal Airports with Aerial Firefighting and Policing Operations (2015 Municipal Airports Survey Results)
This map numbers the 37 municipal airports in northern Ontario and lists them by name.  21 municipal airports that provide aerial fire operations are highlighted, as are 15 municipal airports that provide policing services. The map distinguishes between the 27 municipal airports that participated in the survey of municipal airports conducted as part of strategy development from the ten that did not participate. Services are only shown for participating municipal airports.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Work with partners, including the federal government, to:
    • explore operational funding support, particularly for those municipal airports that provide critical delivery functions for public services and those that are at risk
    • develop options for a capital assistance funding program to support infrastructure needs of smaller and medium sized municipal airports
    • conduct surveys of municipal airports every five years to track improvements and identify priorities.
1.11 Develop aviation policy in Ontario to support this evolving and important part of the transportation system, including helicopters, Unmanned Aerial Systems and other potential aircraft
Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivityCross-cutting icon for environmental sustainability Cross-cutting icon for goods movement and economic development

Aviation is a federally regulated activity, in which Transport Canada broadly sets the regulatory and safety requirements for operators and manages a capital funding program (Airport Capital Assistance Program) for municipal and international airports. However, some policy, funding and transportation planning gaps exist, that are being considered under this draft Strategy.

The Ontario Government has several ministries and agencies that rely on aviation operations to perform vital services. For example, Ornge, a non-profit organization that provides air ambulance and associated ground transportation service under the direction of the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, uses helipads in rural locations in northern Ontario to transport patients needing emergency health care. However, Transport Canada does not specify certification requirements for helipads located in non-built-up (rural) areas. Thus Ornge assumes the risk of inspecting and using uncertified helipads.

Figure 6 displays fixed-wing air ambulance patient transfers in 2014, demonstrating the importance of certain municipal airports to this service. It also shows the number and significance of helipad locations.

Figure 6: Fixed-Wing Air Ambulance Patient Transfers and Helipad Locations
This map shows volumes of patient transfers to, from and between northern Ontario airports as made by fixed-wing air ambulance aircraft in 2014. The four patient volume ranges included on the map are: 1 to 50 patients; 50 to 100 patients; 100 to 150 patients; and 150 to 200 patients.  Helipad locations are also noted on the map.

In some parts of northern Ontario, helicopters are the predominant type of aircraft for aviation services such as emergency medical transport. There are many communities in northern Ontario that are not situated within a reasonable driving distance of a trauma centre, and do not have a municipal or remote airport to serve fixed-wing medical transport.

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) are increasingly being used in northern Ontario, and elsewhere, for aerial surveying and mapping, wildlife monitoring, accident reconstruction, weather-related damage assessment and agricultural management. There are indications that these and other applications may become more widespread. Use of various forms of airships is also anticipated in the near future in other jurisdictions.

Currently, Ontario does not have a policy framework for aviation matters such as airport or helipad funding, supporting the use of UAS, or for informing aviation transportation planning. This draft Strategy confirms that such a policy framework is needed, and should account for the unique needs and features of aviation in northern Ontario.

Sample Action under Consideration

  • Develop forward-looking aviation policy for Ontario, with all relevant government ministries and partners:
    • Ensure a focus on the unique needs of northern Ontario
    • Include guidance on appropriate adoption of innovative aviation technologies in support of Ontario’s GHG reduction targets set through the Climate Change Action Plan.
1.12 Increase market access to rail and marine modes for freight transport, where appropriate
Cross-cutting icon for environmental sustainability freighttest

While rail, marine, road and air transportation modes all play important roles in the movement of goods in northern Ontario, this direction focuses on bulk and heavy freight shipments. Freight moved in northern Ontario includes bulk commodities such as grain, ore and aggregates, as well as general cargo such as petroleum products, food and other goods. Of all modes, freight rail moved the largest tonnage of goods in northern Ontario in 2012 (however, the greatest value of goods was moved by truck, given that smaller and more expensive products such as electronics are moved by truck).5 Marine infrastructure also provides an important link to southern Ontario, U.S. and international markets for bulk commodities such as grain and aggregates.

Through outreach conducted for this draft Strategy, stakeholders have identified that marine and rail networks in northern Ontario may be underutilized and could have the potential to respond to the needs of growing and emerging northern industries, while at the same time increasing efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of freight movement.

However, the efficiencies gained can vary greatly by location, nature of the industry, amount and type of product and other factors.

Under certain conditions trains have the capacity to move bulk commodities with greater energy efficiency than trucks, which could contribute to reductions in GHG emissions. According to the Railway Association of Canada, shortlines can be up to three to four times more efficient per tonne/km than trucking the same commodity, depending on factors such as distance travelled, engine type, volume and weight being carried and terrain. Building new rail spurs to serve a single business is generally not viable; however, shipping by truck from a rail-truck hub is economical for distances in the range of 50–70 km.

In 2006, CP made the business decision to close its railway-operated intermodal facility in Thunder Bay. As a result, there are currently no intermodal facilities in northern Ontario (though there are a small number of trans-load facilities). The closest intermodal container terminals are located in the Greater Toronto Area and in Winnipeg.

The Town of Cochrane, with investments from the federal and provincial governments, is constructing a new rail-truck hub that is expected to serve the mining, forestry and agriculture industries. The hub is being constructed in the ONTC rail yard in Cochrane and initial plans are to provide hauling services to Detour Gold. The rail-truck hub is helpful for local industry and is expected to reduce GHG emissions and divert traffic from roads to rail.

Strategically located ports, such as in Thunder Bay Sault Ste. Marie and Meldrum Bay (Lafarge Quarry Stone Dock) have moderate levels of activity today and may become essential for moving increased volumes of goods in the future. Adequately sized storage and staging areas are needed adjacent to ports. However, without protection from incompatible uses, there is no guarantee that the routes leading to ports, and lands around them, will be available when needed.

Marine transportation typically emits fewer greenhouse gases per tonne/km relative to other freight modes. In the future, marine could become a more prominent and environmentally sustainable option for the transportation of large shipments of bulk cargo in northern Ontario. To support this mode, rail and trucking partners are needed to complete the freight transportation supply chain.

This draft Strategy commits to working with partners to help facilitate and enable optimal use of all transportation modes, as appropriate, for bulk and heavy shipments.

Figure 7 shows existing freight rail lines, including short lines in northern Ontario, as well as existing rail-truck hubs, and potential locations for new rail-truck hubs.

Figure 7: Existing Freight Rail Lines and Potential Locations for New Rail-Truck Hubs in Northern Ontario
This map shows active railways in and around northern Ontario, distinguishing railways by operator. Potential locations for new rail-truck hubs are shown at North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, Cochrane, Kirkland Lake, Thunder Bay and Geraldton.

Actions Underway

  • MTO is working on the implementation of the Climate Change Action Plan, including under­taking a study of shortline railways in Ontario. Upon completion of the study, the ministry will take action to improve the competitiveness of the province’s shortline railways.
  • Through implementation of the Provincial Policy Statement, ensure that lands around strategic marine ports are protected from incompatible uses.
Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Work with shippers and carriers to identify additional northern Ontario locations where there is a strong business case for rail-truck hubs, or marine infrastructure to be built or augmented.
  • Work with municipal, industry and other partners to protect existing rail infrastructure and corridors.
  • Given existing and emerging priority economic sectors, work with municipalities, the federal government, industry and others to identify strategic marine ports for large shipments of bulk cargo.
1.13 Support enhanced marine tourism businesses in northern Ontario
Cross-cutting icon for tourism

This draft Strategy recognizes that the use of marine transport for passenger movement and tourism on the Upper Lakes has the potential for growth. For example, the Chi-Cheemaun ferry, operated by the Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC) on behalf of the Ontario Government, has refocused its marketing efforts to highlight its offerings as a marine excursion and a leisure activity, resulting in more users of the service.

Currently, federal shipping and border crossing regulations make it challenging for potential Great Lakes cruise ship companies to operate profitably in northern Ontario. Inadequate border security facilities at some potentially attractive cruise ship stops also hinder development of this sector in the north.

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport is working to facilitate new opportunities for marine tourism on the Great Lakes and is soliciting foreign cruise lines to offer their services. However, a complex federal regulatory environment is making this difficult, for example:

  • Under current cabotage laws, non-Canadian flag ships cannot transport passengers between two consecutive Canadian ports; therefore, they are limited to transporting passengers between alternating US and Canadian ports.
  • Non-Canadian flag ships cannot begin and end a Great Lakes cruise at Canadian ports.
  • Foreign vessels are required to have a Canadian pilot on board for certain segments of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Seaway, and the pilotage fees for this are significant.
Action Underway

  • Ontario is working with municipalities, the Canadian Border Services Agency, Transport Canada and other provincial and federal agencies to raise awareness of, and work toward solutions for, regulatory reform to support Great Lakes passenger cruises.

Goal 2: Safe and Reliable

Enhance traveller safety and system reliability and minimize travel delays and complications

The vast road network across northern Ontario will continue to be the primary transportation system for both passenger travel and goods movement for the foreseeable future. The long distances between towns and other places to stop and rest, sparsely travelled roads and long winters with severe weather, bring unique safety challenges for commercial drivers and other travellers, and heighten the importance of system reliability. Emergency communications can be particularly challenging along the highway network because of gaps in cellular coverage. Northern Ontario drivers are able to avoid dangerous situations and make better route choices when they are well informed and can plan in advance.

When moving commercial goods or meeting daily living needs, safety is often reliant on communication, whether it is to obtain information about travel conditions, relay one’s situation, or call for assistance. Safe travel is also about driving options, for example having a place to rest, refuel, maintain equipment, get directions or detour during a road closure.

Under the Federal Motor Vehicle Transport Act, hours-of-service regulations require commercial vehicle drivers (e.g., trucks and passenger buses) to take mandated breaks. Within northern Ontario, some rest areas where drivers can safely pull off the highway for breaks are inadequate, and some detours are lengthy or not suitable for commercial vehicles, especially heavy trucks. As a result, commercial drivers can have difficulty complying with federal hours-of-service regulations, and with delivering time-sensitive cargo.

The five directions under Goal 2 are intended to help ensure that the transportation system, particularly the provincial highway network, is safe and reliable well into the future. (Note that the issue of safety and reliability for winter roads and remote airports is addressed as part of Goal 3: working with remote and Far North communities to address unique transportation needs.)

2.1 Improve trip-planning and real-time travel information for road users
Icône générale représentant le transport de passagers et la connectivitéCross-cutting icon for tourismCross-cutting icon for goods movement and economic developmentCross-cutting icon for traveller information

This draft Strategy recognizes that being informed and prepared before setting out or while travelling on the highway can increase safety and reduce incidents. Travellers, whether they be tourists or commercial vehicle drivers, may not be familiar with the long distances between rest areas and fuel stations, the presence of wild animals or intermittent cell coverage on the northern Ontario highway network, which can pose safety risks.

Tourism traffic volumes in northern Ontario are most significant on Trans-Canada Highway segments, particularly north-south on Highways 69/400 and 11, and along Lake Superior on Highway 17. Other notable routes include Highway 17 between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, and Highway 11 between North Bay and Kirkland Lake. Figure 8 illustrates relative tourist volumes. Analysis of wildlife-vehicle collisions identified that some of these routes have higher than average collision rates with large wildlife.

Figure 8: Tourist Travel Flows across Northern Ontario Border Crossings and Selected Provincial Highway Sites, 2011-2012
This map shows the flows of average daily tourism trips for international and domestic travel in northern Ontario, and shows how far these flows continue beyond the region. International travel is split up into trips made by Canadian residents and those made by United States residents. Domestic travel is split up into trips made by northern Ontario residents, trips made by southern Ontario residents, and trips made by other Canadian residents. The map also shows population centres in northern Ontario and survey data collection sites for context.

Provision of information to travellers about these routes will be a priority, through cost-effective means that reach intended users. Such information will reduce driver frustration, enhance safety and raise the northern Ontario travel experience.

Trips by tourism operators and people crossing borders also benefit from access to good information to plan ahead. For example, tourism activity based on motor sport and other off-road modes can encounter challenges with the use of the highway network, such as the need to obtain a permit for trailers hauling recreational or off-road vehicles over 4,500 kg, or planning motorcycle routes without the benefit of knowing when construction or highway resurfacing/rehabilitation is planned to occur.

At border crossings, a lack of information on wait times can limit optimal trip planning and affects the efficient movement of goods and the convenience of passenger travel. The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) publishes current and forecasted wait time information for its 26 busiest crossings across the country, which includes those at Sault Ste. Marie and Fort Frances, but not the Rainy River and Pigeon River crossings. Based on historic data, wait times at the Fort Frances and Sault Ste. Marie crossings are anticipated to be a minimum of 10 minutes, increasing to up to 30 and 34 minutes at peak times and seasons, respectively.

Once travellers begin their trips, real-time information concerning highway incidents and closures helps road users make effective routing decisions. In many cases detours exist, but routes are not always communicated to travellers in advance, which can result in confusion and delays in travel times.

Changeable message signs that provide real-time information on weather conditions and road closures are located along segments of the northern Ontario highway network; however, there are some gaps in critical areas of the network.

The Ontario 511 Traveller Information Service provides road information on provincially maintained highways, by telephone, internet and Twitter/text message. During outreach, northern Ontario residents indicated that access to information on highway construction, snow plow locations and road conditions due to weather, incidents and closures is important when planning trips. Ontario 511 is a valuable service that facilitates access to this information. MTO has committed to modernize Ontario 511 to ensure that it remains responsive to traveller needs.

Northern Ontario residents also noted that they are often the first on the scene when an incident happens, such as a road washout. They suggested there is a need for road users to share real-time information on road conditions with other users of the provincial highway network and other roads.

Figure 9 shows existing and potential priority locations for additional changeable message signs as first steps to providing better real-time travel information.

Figure 9: Existing and Potential Locations for Changeable Message Signs and Areas of Limited Cell Coverage along the Primary Highway Network in Northern Ontario
This map shows the locations of existing changeable message signs throughout northern Ontario’s highway network. It also shows four areas identified as priority locations for new changeable message signs, as well as stretches of the primary highway network with limited cell phone coverage.

Actions Underway

  • In collaboration with CBSA, MTO plans to provide current/anticipated wait times on changeable message signs at the approaches to border crossings where the information is not currently provided.
  • MTO to provide, through the modernization of the 511 system, additional information that travellers in northern Ontario need to support safe, efficient and reliable travel on the provincial highway.
Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Work with public and private sector partners to provide sustained information and guidance regarding the risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions, the locations of available rest areas and the potential for sharing the road with large commercial vehicles.
  • Improve communication with motor sport and other off-road vehicle tourism businesses about permitting requirements.
  • Ensure MTO policies and practices are supportive of off-road, motorcycle and motor sport tourist activities in northern Ontario.
  • Place additional changeable message signs at strategic locations along the highway system to improve communication of incidents and road closures.

2.2 Expand cellular service across the transportation network in northern Ontario

See also related direction 4.1

Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivityCross-cutting icon for traveller informationCross-cutting icon for goods movement and economic development

Cellular service is not continuous across the northern Ontario transportation network. This can pose communication challenges for travellers during emergency situations, when access to real-time travel information is particularly critical. In recent years, cellular service along the highway network has been provided by telecommunications providers largely based on market conditions, and often in partnership with various levels of government.

Although the Trans-Canada Highway is generally well-served by cellular coverage, there are intermittent gaps in some areas, such as Marathon-White River and Hearst-Longlac.

Other primary highways, such as Highway 144 between Sudbury and Timmins, have longer stretches without cellular service and most secondary highways also have poor cell coverage.

There are many reasons for the cellular gaps throughout northern Ontario, including the lack of an economically viable business case for the private sector to maintain services, and geographic features (such as rocky terrain) that can impede signals. While many areas are only served by one telecommunications company (e.g., Bell Canada, Rogers Communications), the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has introduced a regulation that requires cellular providers to offer roaming services on each other’s networks. It is anticipated that these roaming agreements will be in place in northern Ontario in the short-to-medium term, allowing users of one carrier to easily get service in another carrier’s service area.

This draft Strategy recognizes the need to provide critical safety information in areas where there are cellular service gaps, and to reduce these gaps over time through partnerships among the public, non-profit and private sectors. Figure 9 shows areas along the provincial highway network where cellular coverage is poor or non-existent.6

Sample Action under Consideration

  • Identify barriers to cellular coverage in priority locations and facilitate partnerships between the provincial and federal government, telecommunications providers and other private sector and non-profit agencies to improve coverage.

2.3 Expand and improve provision of rest areas, laybys and roadside pull-offs
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Rest areas provide opportunities for all travellers to take a break, use washrooms, get food, fuel and maintain their vehicles, check maps, confirm travel plans with real-time information and place telephone calls or send messages. Rest areas can help reduce drivers’ fatigue and provide a safe and convenient alternative to parking along the side of the highway. A well-planned rest area can serve both as a stop for commercial vehicles and passenger buses complying with federal hours-of-service regulations, and as information centres about natural and cultural points of interest.

Given the diverse range of highway users in northern Ontario, rest areas that provide basic amenities are needed at strategic locations. Currently, there are long stretches along the Trans-Canada Highway in northern Ontario with no year-round rest areas that provide basic amenities to travellers. Other provincial highways in the north also lack basic rest areas for drivers.

MTO provides and maintains three types of seasonal rest areas in northern Ontario:

  • park/picnic areas
  • scenic lookouts
  • roadside pull-offs.

These are all located on primary highways and are typically maintained between May and October. There are seven year-round rest stops: six are located along Highway 17, and one is located along Highway 11 north of North Bay.

Rest areas can take various forms, ranging from basic roadside pull-off areas to full-service centres. A new year-round truck-suitable rest area would likely include a truck stop, restaurant and/or gas station, and would be operated by the private sector.

Three existing rest areas have been identified as part of this draft Strategy as priority areas for improvements:

  • Highway 17, 1.3 km east of the Ontario-Manitoba Border
  • Highway 11, 8.0 km east of Hwy 663 (west of Hearst)
  • Highway 144, at junction with Highway 560 (Watershed).

Figure 10 shows highways segments with gaps in the provision of rest areas and pull-off locations, and priority locations for improvements to rest areas.

Figure 10: Highway Segments with Gaps in Provision of Rest Areas and Safe Pull-Offs, and Priority Locations for Rest Area Improvements
This map shows three locations identified for priority improvements to existing rest areas. It also shows segments of the highway network identified for potential new or enhanced rest areas and or safe pull-offs; and segments identified for potential new safe pull-offs.

Actions Underway

  • Building on the analysis conducted through NOMTS, develop northern Ontario-specific policy guidance to support the planning, prioritization and implementation of rest areas and roadside pull-offs along the provincial highway network. The policy guidance will identify additional locations of rest areas and other roadside pull-offs and improvements and will also include:
    • Siting and design considerations
    • Amenities, facilities and signs
    • Servicing and maintenance.
  • Invest in improvements to three existing seasonal rest areas, identified as part of this draft Strategy as priority areas for improvements, to ensure year-round passenger and commercial vehicle access:
    • Highway 17, 1.3 km east of the Ontario-Manitoba Border
    • Highway 11, 8.0 km east of Hwy 663 (west of Hearst)
    • Highway 144, at junction with Highway 560 (Watershed).

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Work with municipal and private sector partners to strategically address gaps in fuel service station locations along the Trans-Canada Highway, and other primary and secondary highway corridors such as Highways 101, 129 and 144.
  • Work with local businesses to explore opportunities for improving or extending existing services and amenities that can improve the driving experience of motorists.
2.4 Make strategic investments in the highway network that will reduce impacts on drivers during highway incidents and closures
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Ontario has among the safest roads in North America and MTO continues to be committed to keeping them as safe as possible. For example, continued investment in rehabilitation of the road network can extend the life of asphalt, reduce potholes and decrease rutting and cracking. Roads stay smoother and safer for all motorists with ongoing rehabilitation. Similarly, lane markings need to be clearly visible and maintained for the safety of all road users. Safety is also dependant on the ability to turn back and/or access alternative routes in the event of an unanticipated road closure. This can be particularly challenging for large vehicles, such as heavy trucks and some recreational vehicles, travelling northern Ontario’s two-lane highway routes through sparsely-populated areas, with long distances between opportunities for turning back.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Identify decision points along the primary highway network and highway stretches that are prone to closure (e.g., due to weather effects).
  • Ensure that sufficient infrastructure exists at those locations to allow large vehicles to turn around and avoid queuing up roadside or on the road.
2.5 Increase the safety for people accessing intercommunity bus services through provision of amenities that better meet user needs
Cross-cutting icon for passenger transportation and connectivity

A lack of infrastructure to shelter passengers when waiting for an intercommunity bus in northern Ontario has been noted as a safety concern – most notably during the evening hours or when weather conditions are poor. In many cases, bus stops are located along highways where people either wait in a roadside passenger vehicle or stand along the highway. Improvements to bus terminals and stops can improve passenger safety, accessibility and the overall travel experience to encourage repeated use of intercommunity bus services. Existing intercommunity bus stop locations are shown in Figure 11. This draft Strategy prioritizes provision of safe bus shelters, and recommends development of more detailed directions in terms of shelter siting and amenities, to help direct provincial and/or federal transit infrastructure funding, as available, to the most appropriate locations.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • MTO and MNDM to identify, consult on and develop a bus shelter improvement policy to provide guidance on shelter siting and amenities, such as lighting, signage and seating to improve user safety and comfort.
  • Coordinate with directions to increase intercommunity bus services (direction 1.1), enhance community transit (direction 1.2) and improve rest areas and laybys (direction 2.3).
Figure 11: Intercommunity Bus Service and Bus Stop Infrastructure in Northern Ontario
This map shows existing inter-community bus routes and the frequency range of each bus route in northern Ontario. The bus routes included are: Greyhound; Ontario Northland; AJ Bus Lines; Autobus Maheux; Caribou Coach; and Kasper. The per direction frequency ranges are: 1 to 4 trips per week; 5 to 7 trips per week; and more than 7 trips per week. Bus stop locations are shown and are distinguished between different types of bus stop infrastructure, which include: bus station or terminal; stop at other business; or no infrastructure.

Goal 3: Address Remote and Far North Challenges

Work with remote and Far North communities to address unique transportation needs with more reliable connections between communities and to the all-season ground transportation network

Long distances between communities, frequency and severity of winter storms and limited choices for transportation modes make daily travel costly and uncertain for residents of remote and coastal communities. The distances from major centres and lack of all-season road connections contribute to high food prices, increased living costs, limited local health and social services availability and expensive travel to visit family and friends.

About 24,000 of the approximately 808,000 residents of northern Ontario live in the Far North, which makes up half the land area of northern Ontario.7  Almost all Far North communities are home to Indigenous peoples, and are accessed by 29 provincially funded remote airports, as well as by a few roads and one rail link. In the winter months of January through April, a network of winter ice roads also serves communities in the Far North.

In comparison, the near north, comprising the southern half of northern Ontario, was home to 784,000 people in 2011, and is served by an extensive multimodal transportation network of roads, rail lines, airports and marine ports.

Winter roads are essential lifelines for remote communities. The shortening of the winter road season, resulting from the changing climate, has heightened the critical importance of the 29 provincial remote airports for year-round access to and from the Far North. Travel challenges for residents of remote communities and the increased interest in the development of the Far North could potentially result in the future expansion of all-season roads.

The Northern Ontario Winter Roads program is a committed partnership between MNDM and the federal department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) to allocate funding for the construction and maintenance of winter road corridors in northern Ontario. Working with each other and interested First Nation communities, MNDM and INAC are also supporting the incremental development and planning of all-season road connections to and from remote communities.

The federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to Indigenous peoples. Given the importance of remote airports and winter roads for access and for transporting food and other essentials, there is a federal interest in sustaining and improving these links.

This draft Strategy offers a multi-facetted approach. Directions seek to ensure that residents of remote communities and resource development operations have appropriate transportation options. These directions aim to:

  • Ensure remote airports are positioned to continue to provide year-round access that meets residents’ needs
  • Maximize and optimize the winter roads as much as possible in the face of climate change
  • Explore and support agreed upon alternatives to winter roads, such as all-season roads.
3.1 Renew remote airports’ basic infrastructure to support their essential functions
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Northern Ontario’s 29 remote airports continue to provide the only all-season access to and from most Far North communities. This draft Strategy recognizes the essential role of remote airports and the need for capital reinvestment to continue to sustain their vital function providing access for remote communities.

While Ontario’s remote airports are operated safely in compliance with Canadian aviation regulations, they do face particular challenges. Aircraft access in poor weather conditions is limited when modern navigation equipment is not available at remote airports; therefore reliable runway lighting is necessary to support operational safety. Warehousing, security facilities, third person refueling and de-icing and rest areas for flight crews are not available at most remote airports. Finally, compact gravel runways at most remote airports limit aircraft to smaller single or twin-engine turboprops, which can carry only relatively light freight loads, increasing the cost per shipment of goods into Far North communities.

Figure 12 shows the locations of the remote airports and the range of population sizes of the communities that the airports serve.

Action Underway

  • MTO will continue to invest in capital infra­structure project improvements, including rebuilding and renovating maintenance and terminal buildings at specific airports and upgrading runway lighting at all airports.
Figure 12: First Nation Registered Population on own Reserve and Remote Airports
The map highlights the Far North of Ontario. This map shows the locations of First Nation communities throughout northern Ontario. The registered on-reserve population for each First Nation community is indicated thematically through the size of a circle at each location. The locations of remote airports are highlighted. Three remote airports using renewable energy are identified. The approximate permafrost southern limits are shown by two bands running roughly east-west across the map.

3.2 Improve operational functions of remote airports, including enhancing their reliability
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When people in a remote community need emergency medical transport, they are transported by an Ornge aircraft landing at the community’s remote airport. Approximately 2,500 medical flights are made by Ornge annually to the Far North, many of which occur outside of the remote airports’ regular operating hours. MTO currently employs one full-time and one seasonal maintenance staff person at each airport.

Ontario provides technical support to remote airport staff on safety, engineering, training and regulatory compliance. Remote airports are staffed only during regular business hours, Monday to Friday and generally between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. In some cases, the landing and take-off of emergency flights outside of these hours requires the airport foreperson to return to the airport after hours to ensure safe runway conditions for the flight, for example to plow a runway or to issue a runway report. These hours also limit the flexibility for commercial and charter flights to land at these communities. Through outreach conducted as part of development of this draft Strategy, concerns about the hours of operation of the airports were heard; at the time of the release of this draft document, this input is being considered.

Typically, MTO and the Far North First Nation community that the airport serves have an “airport agreement” that sets out each party’s respective rights and obligations regarding construction, operation and maintenance activities at the airport. Most previous airport agreements have expired or are nearing expiry, resulting in a lack of clarity around roles, responsibilities and the relationship between First Nations and the Crown. Re-establishing these agreements has been noted as a priority during outreach meetings, and all parties are working towards this goal.

This draft Strategy recognizes that continuous improvements must be made to operations of remote airports, to support their vital function in the community and build understanding of how they operate.

Actions Underway

  • Installing backup generators at remote airports in 2017-2018 to ensure airport lighting can continue to operate even in an emergency.
  • Adding a gravel binding agent to the multi-year maintenance program to make the gravel on runways last longer, reduce damage to aircraft and reduce the need for maintenance.
  • Developing a program to share information with communities on important matters related to living near an airport. The program, to take place over the next several years, will explain the Airport Vehicles Operations Plans (AVOP) and emergency response plans, and include the importance of controlling who can access the airport, the airside of the airport and other safety/security considerations at the remote airports.
3.3 Enhance the quality of winter roads and extend their operating season through improved infrastructure, programs, maintenance and training
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Many winter road segments are lengthy and cross difficult terrain. First Nation communities, shippers and winter road users are seeking assistance from other levels of government to help ensure the quality of winter road construction and maintenance, and provide publicly available information on the 10 winter road corridors in northern Ontario to assist with trip planning and navigation.

Each First Nation community is contracted to build and maintain its section of the winter road network in the Far North, and receives federal and provincial funding on a per kilometre basis. Certain funding criteria and the timing of transfers can impact the capacity of communities to build a quality winter road in the limited time available each season. This funding structure may not sufficiently take into consideration local challenges such as difficult water crossings, or the need for permanent infrastructure to better manage difficult water crossings over the long term. Additionally, there are no training programs provided for winter road builders in Ontario.

As the winter road season continues to become less reliable and shorter due to warming temperatures and decreased amounts of snow, it is critical that design and construction of winter roads consider these impacts or that alternatives to winter roads be considered.

This draft Strategy recognizes the effects of climate change on winter roads, which need to be constructed, maintained and operated to high standards so that they continue to provide important transportation links to their communities for as long as possible.

Figure 13 shows a sample of two winter road corridors. All maps can be found in Appendix A of the Winter Roads Technical Backgrounder posted at www.nomts.ca.

Actions Underway

  • In the 2016-17 winter road season, MNDM began providing assistance in winter road inspection and oversight through the use of ground-penetrating radar to monitor ice thickness.
  • MNDM and INAC are pursuing partnerships with other ministries to improve water crossings on winter roads through the use of portable bridges and arch culverts.
  • MNDM and INAC are rolling out a training program for winter road builders in summer 2017, with training provided by an Indigenous business.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • MNDM and INAC to initiate review of the winter roads funding program.
  • Work with First Nation communities to realign existing winter roads experiencing recurring operational challenges such as flooding.
  • Improve public availability of information on the condition of winter roads.
Figure 13: Kingfisher and North Caribou Winter Road Corridors
This map shows detail for two winter road corridors in a northwesterly region of Ontario, namely the Kingfisher and North Caribou Corridors. The distances in kilometres are shown for sections along these corridors. Water crossings are identified, including the names of the water bodies that are crossed. An approximately 39-kilometre segment of North Caribou Winter Road is highlighted for planned conversion to all-season road; this is shown as an extension of the conjoining all-season road called NORT Road. The administrative boundaries shown include First Nation reserves and provincial parks.

3.4 Provide seasonal multi-purpose drop locations for goods and laybys along the winter road network to reduce risks and improve the movement of people and goods
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Some winter road segments are hundreds of kilometres long without places for drivers to rest, pull-off or wait out poor weather conditions. Furthermore, when winter road conditions are poor and unable to accommodate the weight of freight shipments, there are no locations for drivers to store their loads (or portions thereof) that would permit them to continue on their route with a reduced load.

This draft Strategy recognizes that providing laybys or drop locations along winter road corridors, in areas where technically feasible, would make communications more feasible and could allow travellers to inform others of progress on their trip or seek help, when needed. These locations could potentially also be used to store equipment for winter or all-season road maintenance.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • MNDM and INAC to work with First Nations communities along winter road corridors to investigate the potential to develop laybys and/or storage facilities offering rest and the ability to reduce loads where necessary.
  • Work with First Nations communities to identify locations for multi-lingual directional, distance and hazard signs.
Winter Roads
There are 32 communities that rely on winter roads, 29 of which are located in the Far North. As of 2016, a 3,160-km winter road network connects these communities to provincial road or rail networks and provides a cost-effective delivery method for essential goods and access to urban centres.

The viability of winter roads is challenged by: environment/climate change; dispersed authority/jurisdiction; route limitations such as lack of amenities and signage; safety issues; road quality; and funding.

Improvements identified in this draft Strategy include:

  • Enhance the quality of winter roads and extend their operating season through improved infrastructure, programs, maintenance and training (3.3)
  • Provide seasonal multi-purpose drop locations for goods and laybys along the winter road network to reduce risks and improve the movement of people and goods (3.4)
  • Support increased enforcement on winter roads and for remote air travel (3.5).

Even with these improvements, climate change impacts are expected to render certain winter roads much less reliable and cost-effective over the longer term. Improvements identified in this draft Strategy include:

  • Collaboratively pursue the expansion of the all-season road network in partnership with interested First Nation communities and other levels of government and partners (3.6)
  • Expand broadband infrastructure in rural and remote communications in northern Ontario to enable enhanced communications for people and transportation providers (4.1)
  • Deliver services remotely through telecommunications or locally when possible, to decrease the need for people to travel (4.2)
  • Facilitate adoption of new and emerging innovative methods of goods movement, where appropriate, such as airships and hoverbarges (4.4)
  • Gather data, and increase monitoring, knowledge and forecasting to support long-term transportation planning (4.5)
  • Increase the use of renewable energy throughout the Northern transportation system, including for vehicular travel, at airports and remote communities (5.2).

3.5 Support increased enforcement on winter roads and for remote air travel
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Law enforcement along winter roads is challenging due to the vast geographic terrain of the Far North and lack of available enforcement personnel. It has been noted that people may drive without valid licences or insurance and speeding may occur on winter roads, putting users at risk in the absence of enforcement. Winter roads are public roads and enforcement is the responsibility of the Ontario Provincial Police and/or the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Services. Additionally, with no security services at municipal airports to check baggage bound for remote airports, the potential for smuggling of contraband items is a concern to the communities served by remote airports. Spot checks along the winter road corridors conducted by Nishnawbe-Aski Police Services have reduced the entrance of contraband to communities. However, increased enforcement is needed to prevent the transport of contraband on winter roads and at remote airports.

This draft Strategy recognizes these concerns, and is committing to further dialogue as a starting point to address them.

Action Underway

  • As a first step, MTO and MNDM will engage with appropriate law enforcement agencies, First Nation communities, northern Ontario stakeholders and operators, and other levels of government to identify potential actions to address the smuggling of contraband into remote Indigenous communities, and to improve the ability to respond to emergencies.
3.6 Collaboratively pursue the expansion of the all-season road network in partnership with interested First Nation communities and other levels of government and partners
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Most First Nation communities located in the Far North do not have all-season road access. As the winter road season shortens and the winter road corridors become increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, there is interest among some First Nation communities in the Far North to pursue all-season roads.

All-season roads not only allow for the movement of commercial goods to First Nation communities or heavy equipment to support mineral development and other resource activities. Once built, they enable lower costs per shipment than through air travel, and also enable intercommunity travel and connect Indigenous communities to the rest of the province.

Some remote First Nation communities, such as North Caribou Lake First Nation, have begun plans to connect to the all-season road network. As illustrated in Figure 13, this plan for North Caribou Lake First Nation includes extending Pickle Lake NORT Road from its current endpoint about 200 km northwest of Pickle Lake to the First Nation community. This road extension would replace a 40-km stretch of winter road.

Working collaboratively, Windigo Tribal Council, North Caribou Lake First Nation, MNRF, MNDM and INAC have completed several planning and preliminary construction tasks, including a feasibility study and detailed design. Funding has been secured for a necessary bridge, a portion of the all-season road and for long-term maintenance.

This draft Strategy supports incremental expansion of the all-season road network and connecting First Nation communities to the provincial highway network. It supports the continued development of smaller individual projects (in planning or in progress) such as access to North Caribou Lake and Marten Falls.

Over the medium term, achieving this direction requires working with First Nation communities and other levels of government to develop a Far North transportation network plan to benefit the entire region. Such a network plan would:

  • Be designed and managed in partnership with affected First Nation communities
  • Be integrated with Community Based Land Use Plans
  • Consider multiple modes (i.e., road, rail, marine and air)
  • Be responsive to climate change and other environmental protection objectives
  • Be informed by current and previously completed studies for all-season roads
  • Recognize the value and importance of the remote airports and the winter road network and the ongoing need for information, training and funding
  • Support strategic improvements to remote airports and the realignment of winter roads to higher ground
  • Identify and prioritize the need for new access to both First Nation communities and existing/ potential resource development sites
  • Adopt an integrated corridor planning approach to maximize opportunities for coordinating multiple infrastructure projects (i.e., electricity transmission, utilities, etc.).
Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Where discussions have begun to take place or there is consensus, continue development of projects for all-season road segments.
  • Initiate a Far North transportation network plan, in conjunction with a process to coordinate land use and transportation planning on an ongoing basis (direction 3.7).
Expanded All-Season Road Network
Given the costs of air transportation in northern Ontario, and the impact of climate change on the winter road network – the primary connection for supplies such as food and fuel – several remote communities have begun considering the need for all-season road access.

Planning and expanding the all-season road network could potentially lead to economic development benefits, more reliable travel than on winter roads, more affordable transport of goods and passengers, and lower food prices in remote communities. Furthermore, the development of all-season roads connecting to Far North communities could facilitate economic development in the agriculture, aquaculture and food processing sector, including local food production and/or increased food distribution.

Additionally, the construction of all-season roads in the Far North could provide access to future Ring of Fire developments and other potential mining locations, thereby assisting in unlocking the economic potential of these resources and creating jobs.

First Nation communities may vary in their opinion on all-season road access, as some communities are concerned that development of all-season roads will provide easier transportation of contraband substances, and an increased access of individuals seeking hunting and fishing locations on traditional lands.

A collaborative approach between the province, federal government and First Nation communities is needed to effectively plan for, fund and develop an all-season road network.

Under the Far North Act, 2010, most development in the Far North of Ontario, including all-weather transportation infrastructure, is prohibited from proceeding in advance of a jointly approved community land use plan for the area, unless an order is made to except or exempt an individual project.

Where a community based land use plan is in effect, development must be consistent with direction contained in the plan.

Authorizations under other provincial legislation, such as the Public Lands Act, and the Endangered Species Act, 2007, may also be required.

Directions that support all-season road access to remote communities in the draft Strategy include:

  • Align infrastructure standards and maintenance service levels with increasing commercial vehicle usage along corridors that are essential for current and future goods movement (1.6)
  • Improve quality of roads outside of the provincial highway network that connect to First Nation communities, where appropriate (1.8)
  • Collaboratively pursue the expansion of the all-season road network in partnership with interested First Nation communities and other levels of governments and partners (3.6)
  • Continue coordinated land use planning and transportation planning in the Far North working collaboratively with First Nation communities and INAC (3.7).
3.7 Continue coordinated land use planning and transportation planning in the Far North, working collaboratively with First Nation communities and INAC
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This draft Strategy recognizes the need for ongoing coordination of transportation planning in the Far North to improve quality of life, enable economic opportunities, mitigate impacts of climate change and enhance the transportation system, while minimizing its footprint on the critical and vast natural and cultural heritage system of the Far North. First Nation communities in the Far North have in-depth and extensive traditional knowledge of the natural environment and the impacts of climate change.Under the Far North Land Use Planning Initiative, Ontario is working with local First Nations to prepare land use plans. These will clarify where development, including infrastructure corridors, can occur, and where land is dedicated for protection. These efforts are making progress towards establishing effective working relationships and addressing concerns related to infrastructure planning. Leveraging information and lessons learned from these initiatives will be important in the future.

Sample Action under Consideration

  • Explore establishment of a Far North Transportation Planning Forum to enable annual information sharing on strategic and sustainable transportation planning for Far North communities.

Goal 4: Integrated and Innovative

Anticipate and respond to economic, technological, environmental and social change to link people, resources and businesses

There are tremendous opportunities to respond to future technological, economic, environmental and social changes with innovative ideas that have positive impacts on the transportation system. Improved access to affordable broadband and high-speed internet in rural and remote communities over time will enhance northern Ontario residents’ access to government and social services, and facilitate business and e-commerce remotely. These changes could reduce the frequency that people need to travel over long distances. Combined with new transportation technologies and other innovations that enable local production of food and goods, these changes have the potential to reduce reliance on traditional modes of transportation and to enhance local and regional economic development.

The effects of climate change are expected to impact all major transportation modes in northern Ontario—road, rail, air and marine. Innovative technology and data gathering and monitoring are needed to continue to adapt to climate change and to plan for transportation of the future.

In addition, demographic changes, advancements in the bio-economy and industry, and other influences will have impacts on transportation needs. Ongoing data gathering and analysis is needed to effectively plan for these changes.

As transportation technologies continue to advance and cellular infrastructure expands throughout northern Ontario, there may be opportunities to adopt new transportation technologies such as connected and autonomous vehicles (CV/AVs). While the ultimate impact of CV/AVs and other transportation technologies is uncertain, such developments could result in enhanced mobility options, improved road safety and increased economic opportunities in the north.

Proposed directions focus on providing technology-enabling infrastructure, promoting advancements that manage travel demand and planning responsibly to anticipate future change. The directions are guided by Ontario’s vision for northern Ontario and that of its partners, including Transport Canada’s Transportation 2030 – A Strategic Plan for the Future of Transportation in Canada. The directions integrate the objectives of a number of Ontario’s initiatives, from food security and expanding access to the electricity grid, to taking action on climate change.

4.1 Expand broadband infrastructure in rural and remote communities in northern Ontario to enable enhanced communi­cations for people and transportation providers

See also related direction 2.1

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Broadband and high-speed internet access is inconsistent across northern Ontario, and is poor or non-existent in some rural and remote communities, including remote airports. A December 2016 CRTC ruling found broadband internet to be a basic service to which Canadians should have access regardless of where they live.

Reliable, high-speed internet is essential for modern air transportation services to provide information on weather conditions and aircraft locations to passengers and air carriers. As of January 2017, 16 of 29 remote airports did not have internet access. Similarly, lack of broadband access can hinder the operations of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services.

Cellular service in most Far North First Nation communities also requires upgrading. Much of Ontario is served by a 3G network; however, First Nation communities in the Far North currently have 2G cellular coverage, which primarily allows for voice services and slow data transmission.

Upgrading cellular and broadband capacity would better enable industries operating throughout northern Ontario to conduct e-commerce, access critical information and provide tourism products responsive to market demands.

Over time, higher levels of broadband service will be needed to enable people in northern Ontario to make full use of ongoing improvements in technology and communications. To address this future need, this draft Strategy recognizes the importance of continuing to work with partners to make incremental enhancements to broadband service levels in rural and remote communities and at remote airports.

Actions Underway

  • MTO is installing broadband internet at its 16 remote airports that currently do not have internet access.
  • MNDM to support the upgrade of cellular coverage in First Nation communities in the Far North from 2G to 3G by the end of 2017.
4.2 Deliver services remotely through telecommunications or locally when possible, to decrease the need for people to travel
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For many communities in northern Ontario, access to government and social services such as for medical care involves a lengthy trip to an urban centre. Such trips have financial, environmental and opportunity costs. For example the time spent travelling could instead be used for family, work or community activities. Less travel also reduces GHG emissions.

In northern Ontario, changes to the way that services are delivered are already reducing peoples’ need to travel. Virtual medicine and education are already offered in many remote First Nation communities in Ontario, and some telemedicine options are available across the province.

The Ontario Telemedicine Network facilitates the use of telemedicine (e.g., secure videoconferencing) to increase access to healthcare throughout Ontario. For example, the Northeastern Ontario Virtual Critical Care program uses the latest in videoconferencing technology and electronic medical records sharing to connect the specialized critical care team at Health Sciences North with smaller critical care units and emergency departments at hospitals across northeastern Ontario.

Governments around the world, including in Canada, are exploring ways to deliver more of their services through digital platforms and virtual meetings, rather than in person. Such changes to service delivery will reduce the need for travel by both service providers and users, and potentially enable:

  • an increase in the customization of services to each individual’s needs
  • more people using services, programs and training opportunities
  • more user input in designing services and programs
  • reduced burden of physical transportation on the environment and for people

This draft Strategy recognizes that there are many opportunities to expand digital or other innovative delivery of services, such as: tailoring driver licensing processes through Service Ontario; using videoconferencing for meetings; providing more medical services locally; and/or providing more access to training opportunities.

Action Underway

  • Through the Health Technologies Fund, the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care is providing grants to support the development of software and mobile devices that focus on the delivery of better home and community care in Ontario. For example, the Health Innovation Team of Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, and Reliq Health, will receive funding to improve diabetes care through real-time monitoring using a technology called iUGO. iUGO will enable people to connect with their health care team in real-time, and access diabetes care in their own homes. This technology has the potential to serve people in remote locations for whom travel for medical care can be a challenge.
Transportation Demand Management
Transportation demand management is a term that refers to how government and social service providers, businesses and others can modify or reduce the need for travel by encouraging alternative options. In northern Ontario, access to broadband and high-speed internet in rural and remote communities could increase options for videoconferencing, remote monitoring for scientific activities and remote access to education services, to name a few. This would in turn reduce the need for people to travel, which saves time and money, and reduces environmental impacts.
4.3 Promote local production of food and goods to reduce long-distance transportation needs
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One way to reduce the need to transport goods is through increased local production of goods and provision of services. This can foster prosperous, resilient and sustainable communities. Local production and distribution could also help to reduce GHG emissions.

A number of technologies exist that could potentially be adopted locally to support local production. All-season, energy-efficient, modular greenhouses designed to perform well in harsh winter conditions are currently being prototyped in Espanola, Ontario. This type of local food production can help address food security concerns. Large-scale 3-D printing has the potential to reduce the need for transporting goods, such as bulky building materials, over long distances to remote communities.

As local economies improve, the need to transport goods over shorter distances between communities may increase. This draft Strategy supports approaches to community economic development that factor in potential implications and benefits of transportation.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Consider transportation benefits and implications in economic development initiatives.
  • Further promote economic development in Indigenous communities through existing initiatives such as the Northern Ontario Agriculture, Aquaculture and Food Processing Sector Strategy.

4.4 Facilitate the adoption of new and emerging innovative methods of goods movement, where appropriate, such as airships and hoverbarges

See also related directions 5.1 & 5.2

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Several innovative technologies such as airships, solar ships, unmanned automated systems (drones) and hoverbarges, while in their infancy for northern locations, could have future applications for transportation in northern Ontario, particularly where all-season road access does not exist.

Goods movement logistics could also benefit from new technologies and systems, from consolidated warehousing to unmanned aerial vehicle-based shipping. The adoption of new technologies can potentially reduce environmental impacts and enhance the efficiency of goods movement and passenger travel to the Far North.

Innovative transportation technologies are in use or being explored in other jurisdictions, and could have applications for transportation in northern Ontario. For example, the use of airships is currently being explored to provide freight and passenger access to a remote mining site in Quebec. New lower-draft marine vessels, hoverbarges and other marine technology could increase the feasibility of traversing northern Ontario’s lakes, rivers and waterways.

Figure 14 illustrates conceptual future connections that could be explored for airship and hoverbarge.

This draft Strategy recognizes the importance of monitoring and preparing for industry’s adoption of new transportation technologies as new solutions develop.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Monitor the application of emerging technologies in other jurisdictions and explore their potential use in northern Ontario – including potential economic development opportunities in the Far North.
  • Consider pilot/demonstration opportunities, where willing partners and strong business cases exist, particularly with regard to reducing GHG emissions.
Figure 14: Potential Routes for Innovative Goods Movement in the Far North
This map shows the potential routes for the use of emerging technologies for goods movement to Ontario’s Far North. These are shown conceptually as arrows that broaden from the origin location. Three arrows are shown starting at Thunder Bay toward the Far North of Ontario, and one arrow is shown starting north of Kapuskasing toward James Bay.

4.5 Gather data, and increase monitoring, knowledge and forecasting to support long-term transportation planning
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Climate change will have a significant impact in northern Ontario and particularly in the Far North. It is important to continuously monitor and forecast impacts to better inform planning for future transportation infrastructure and services. Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy (2016) highlights five areas of transformation. Under Adaptation and Risk Awareness, it identifies establishing a climate change modelling collaborative as a priority action.

Travel and transportation needs also change over time. While a tremendous amount of data and knowledge has been gathered and shared to develop the draft 2041 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy, it represents one point in time within the Strategy’s 25-year planning outlook. This draft Strategy affirms that data gathering at regular intervals is a sound way to evaluate whether the transportation system is continuing to meet the needs of its users. Providing open transportation data also supports a range of user-based benefits.

Actions Underway

  • Over 2017 and 2018, as part of the establishment of the Climate Change Modelling Consortium Collaborative, MTO and MNDM will work with Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) to identify initiatives that would increase understanding of climate change implications on transportation infrastructure in the north, as well as opportunities to build resiliency.
  • MTO has updated its online tool that shows probability of intensity, duration and frequency of rainfall (through IDF curves) for any location in Ontario. The tool is available for anyone to use through the following link: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/IDF_Curves/. The most recent update to this tool enables it to model future potential impacts of climate change, and MTO has used this information to update its drainage design policies for provincial highways.

Sample Action under Consideration

  • Partner to set up an ongoing program of data collection such as through travel surveys or technology-enabled data-gathering.

Goal 5: Healthy and Sustainable

Create a cleaner and more sustainable transportation system in northern Ontario by reducing GHG and other environmental and human health impacts

Currently at 35 per cent, transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the province. If jurisdictions do not take action on climate change and reduce emissions, scientists predict that winter temperatures in the Far North could rise by up to 9 degrees by 2050. This would bring additional challenges to northern Ontario including migration of warmer-weather diseases, water and food issues, increasingly variable weather, changes to growing seasons and species migration. Climate change will also continue to affect the winter ice road season influencing the cost and availability of goods in the Far North.

The Government of Ontario will continue to work with the Government of Canada through the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change8 to de-carbonize the transportation sector and will deliver on a commitment to work with Indigenous peoples and remote and northern communities to reduce their reliance on diesel by connecting these communities to electricity grids and implementing renewable energy systems.

This draft Strategy sets out directions under this goal to reduce transportation-related GHG emissions and other pollutants from vehicles, through reduced travel demand, fuel switching, and use of renewable energy for buildings and more. It sets out directions to plan for a future where infrastructure needs to withstand unpredictable weather events and warmer conditions. This goal also addresses the need to plan for and support active transportation such as walking and cycling wherever possible, as a healthy, affordable and environmentally friendly travel option. Finally, this goal includes direction to minimize the impact of transportation infrastructure and vehicles on wildlife, their habitat and the natural environment generally.

Climate Change Activities
The Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, 2016, established a provincial target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions of 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. The Climate Change Strategy sets the long-term direction for the province and the Climate Change Action Plan offers a suite of programs and policies through the reinvestment of cap and trade proceeds to support reducing emissions across all sectors of the economy.
5.1 Reduce GHG emissions from car and truck transportation in northern Ontario by decreasing reliance on diesel and gasoline fuels and shifting to use of electricity and lower-carbon fuels
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This draft Strategy supports Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan and a path to a lower carbon future. While long-distance travel is necessary for people and goods moving throughout northern Ontario, emissions can be reduced through a shift to electric vehicles and low-carbon fuel sources, more efficient vehicles and improving access to other transportation modes such as rail, marine and bus. Ensuring infrastructure is available for these alternative fuels is critical to facilitating this shift.

Northern residents expressed concerns regarding the feasibility of using electric vehicles (EVs) in the north (e.g. reduced driving range owing to energy required for heaters); however, increasing the number of charging stations as well as effectively communicating the range and vehicle types that are suitable for most northern travel, in particular plug-in hybrid vehicles or compressed natural gas trucks, could mitigate these concerns. See the Electric Vehicle Chargers Ontario website for current locations of EV charging stations.9

The province eliminated coal-fired electricity generation in 2014, which means that cleaner electricity can be used to power EVs and plug-in hybrids, thereby reducing transportation emissions.

Commercial vehicle drivers travelling in northern Ontario often have to travel long distances, and are required to take rest breaks consistent with national regulations to ensure driver safety. During these breaks drivers often need to leave their trucks idling for comfort, safety and to maintain the temperature of refrigerated loads. Providing plug-ins for electric auxiliary power units can help reduce fuel use and emissions while the drivers are resting.

Actions Underway

  • Implement Climate Change Action Plan commitments, including installation of electric vehicle charging stations and setting up a new Green Commercial Vehicle Program to provide incentives to eligible businesses that want to buy low-carbon commercial vehicles and technologies to reduce emissions.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Explore the feasibility of, and potential partnerships to provide power sources to accommodate block heaters, plug-in refrigerated trucks and electric auxiliary power units for trucks at rest areas so drivers can turn off engines in the winter. (See also direction 2.3 on rest area guidance.)
  • Collaborate with stakeholder organizations to increase information sharing in support of EV use in the region.
Bringing the Electricity Grid to the Far North
The majority of communities connected by winter roads are not connected to Ontario’s electricity transmission system. Currently large volumes of diesel fuel are transported annually, through winter roads where possible, to these communities to provide power through community generation and distribution systems. In many communities a significant proportion of their diesel supply is flown in by air. Wataynikaneyap Power, a partnership of 22 Ontario First Nations together with FortisOntario, an electricity transmitter, is seeking to build, own and operate transmission infrastructure to connect remote First Nations in the Far North of Ontario to the grid. Alternatives to diesel generation, such as solar and wind power, are being explored for the remaining communities where grid connection is not economical, including Fort Severn and Weenusk on Hudson Bay.
5.2 Increase the use of renewable energy throughout the northern transportation system, including for vehicular travel, at airports and for remote communities
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This draft Strategy recognizes that a multi-faceted approach is required to reduce the environmental footprint for all modes of travel while at the same time expanding economic development opportunities in northern Ontario, which may be accompanied by increased travel.

Increased adoption of renewable energy in the Far North will reduce the need to transport heavy diesel loads on winter roads. Already there are five remote airports using renewable energy to power airport buildings.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Continue transition of some remote airports to renewable energy.
  • Provide training for maintenance of renewable energy infrastructure in communities.
  • Seek other opportunities to switch components of the transportation system from diesel and other carbon-based fuels to renewable sources of energy.

5.3 Consider impacts and risks associated with climate change when making decisions on transportation infrastruc­ture investments for northern Ontario

See also related direction 4.5

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Transportation infrastructure in northern Ontario is particularly vulnerable to severe weather and other effects of a changing climate. The assessment of vulnerability risks and impacts on the reliability and resiliency of the entire transportation system is an ongoing exercise to identify priority areas for investment in infrastructure improvements, and to identify adaptation measures required to maintain and strengthen its usability.

Variable weather events are likely to lead to increased flooding, more frequent washouts, hazardous winter driving conditions and route closures. In the longer term, climate change impacts include melting permafrost and reductions in Great Lakes water levels due to warming.

Initial decisions about the type and location of new infrastructure investments should be guided and informed by a strong understanding of the vulnerabilities and risks associated with climate change.

While Ontario has a strong framework for requiring that public infrastructure investments are resistant to the effects of climate change at the planning/design stage, there is no clear mechanism to consider risks and vulnerabilities of infrastructure at the strategic, pre-design/planning stage.

Ontario’s Directive for Major Public Infrastructure Projects and the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act (2015) both include direction that climate change resiliency should be considered when undertaking infrastructure investments.

In Ontario, transportation infrastructure projects are planned and designed according to the provincial environmental assessment (EA) process governed by MOECC.

MOECC recently published the ‘Draft Guide for the Consideration of Climate Change in Environmental Assessments in Ontario’ to assist provincial EA proponents with the assessment of the effects of climate change on a project, and a project’s effect on climate change.

Sample Actions under Consideration

  • Include climate change considerations in provincial transportation Environmental Assessments and infrastructure design.
  • Monitor progress and update directions as needed as new climate change data, practices, or forecasts are available.
  • Move towards a more comprehensive approach to climate change risk resiliency assessment on the northern provincial highway network that considers the nature, severity and probability of future climate change and weather events.
  • Explore conducting similar assessments with partners on other non-provincial transportation infrastructure across the north.
Climate Change
Climate change will have effects on life in northern Ontario and on the ability of northern residents and visitors to make use of its transportation system. With increasing temperatures and a changing climate, many aspects of the transportation system are threatened – more frequent and severe rainstorms or freezing rain may result in flooding, road and rail washouts, ice formation on roads and power lines. Together these possible impacts mean more hazardous travelling conditions, if travel is possible at all.

Climate change and its impacts on the northern transportation system also highlight the importance of improving cellular or satellite service in northern Ontario and ensuring coverage along all major routes and into as many remote and isolated communities as practical. In the north, cellular or satellite connectivity remains a key defence against isolation, a core component when responding to medical needs and a critical part of information sharing to ensure safe travel into and within the north.

As discussed in more detail in Working Paper #2, Climate Change Context for NOMTS, climate change is expected to lead to degradation of winter roads, pavement cracking due to increased frequency of freeze-thaw cycles and rutting of asphalt road surfaces.

Milder temperatures and longer summers are expected to lead to enhanced opportunities for tourism and economic development in the north, such as skiing and snowmobiling and warm-weather activities such as fishing, boating and visiting the region’s parks. Changes to the seasons in the north could lead to more warm-weather visitors for popular outdoor activities.

Components of the draft Strategy address climate change or support northern Ontario in adapting to a changing climate, in particular:

  • Make strategic investments in the highway network that will reduce impacts on drivers during highway incidents and closures (2.4)
  • Enhance the quality of winter roads and extend their operating season through improved infrastructure, programs, maintenance and training (3.3)
  • Provide seasonal multi-purpose drop locations for goods and laybys along the winter road network to reduce risks and improve the movement of people and goods (3.4)
  • Collaboratively pursue the expansion of the all-season road network in partnership with interested First Nation communities and other levels of government and partners (3.6)
  • Continue coordinated land use planning and transportation planning in the Far North working collaboratively with First Nation communities and INAC (3.7)
  • Facilitate the adoption of new and emerging innovative methods of goods movement, where appropriate, such as airships and hoverbarges (4.4)
  • Gather data, and increase monitoring, knowledge and forecasting to support long-term transportation planning (4.5)
  • Reduce GHG emissions from car and truck transportation in northern Ontario by decreasing reliance on diesel and gasoline fuels and shifting to use of electricity and lower-carbon fuels (5.1)
  • Increase the use of renewable energy throughout the northern transportation system, including for vehicular travel, at airports and for remote communities (5.2)
  • Consider impacts and risks associated with climate change when making decisions on transportation infrastructure investments for northern Ontario (5.3).
5.4 Increase awareness, prevention and response related to transport of dangerous goods and spills
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Increased resource development will likely result in a greater amount of dangerous materials being transported within, to and from the region. Northern Ontario residents and Indigenous communities have voiced their concerns about the movement of these goods through their jurisdictions and in the broader watersheds and ecosystems. Communities want assurances that processes are in place to ensure safety in the movement of dangerous goods and that private companies have policies enacted for effective cleanup in the event of a spill.

This draft Strategy recognizes that monitoring, communicating and enforcing the safe transport of dangerous goods is important to ensuring the health of northern Ontario residents and the environment.

Sample Action under Consideration

  • MTO will work with the federal government, provincial ministries and law enforcement to develop training and awareness material for communities in the event of an incident involving the transportation of dangerous goods.
Emergency Management for First Nations
In Ontario, an agreement between the federal government, the province and First Nations clarifies roles and responsibilities for emergency management on reserves. When requested by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) or a First Nation community, the Government of Ontario and the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation will provide assistance with emergency preparedness and response for situations such as natural disasters, industrial, human health or public safety events. For more information please see:

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

Office of the Fire Marshal

Emergency Management Ontario

Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation

5.5 Increase cycling opportunities by connecting the province-wide cycling network, accommodating cycling where appropriate in road rights-of-way and supporting the construction of cycling infrastructure in cities, towns and First Nation communities
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Much of the long-distance recreational cycling in northern Ontario takes place alongside provincial highways. The lack of paved shoulders or cycling lanes on highways and lack of connections to cross border cycling routes affect the safety of cyclists and limit the extent of these tourism activities.

#CycleON: Ontario’s Cycling Strategy provides a 20-year vision to promote cycling and cycling safety in Ontario. #CycleON includes two elements of particular relevance to this direction: infrastructure investments under the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program (OMCIP) and identification of a province-wide cycling network.

Communities are often unable to support increased cycling and active transportation due to an inability to finance the necessary capital and infrastructure projects. OMCIP is helping municipalities and communities across the province build new or improve existing cycling infrastructure. Nearly 150 municipalities, including many northern towns and cities, submitted expressions of interest for MTO’s Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program. First Nation communities and organizations were eligible partners for projects being undertaken in collaboration with a municipality.

Ontario is also working to identify a province-wide network of cycling routes to promote cycling tourism and recreation. Many of the routes under consideration in northern Ontario are on the provincial highway network. The province has begun implementing cycling infrastructure where highway construction projects overlap with the proposed province-wide cycling network.

This draft Strategy recognizes the importance of cycling in northern Ontario both to support more sustainable transportation options and economic development.

Sample Action under Consideration

  • Consider the unique needs of northern Ontario communities when providing support for further active transportation in northern municipalities and First Nation communities.
  • Share best practices on active transportation between communities.
  • Provide cycling accommodation incrementally as part of provincial highways capital infrastructure programs, guided by relevant factors including the provincial cycling network and safety considerations.
  • Enable opportunities for cross-border cycling tourism.
5.6 Encourage planning for compact urban form that supports active transportation options such as walking or cycling and increases the viability of local transit
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Compact urban form helps to support active transportation and transit, and potentially reduce GHG emissions and increase health benefits, by conveniently locating services and amenities and reducing travel distances. Some municipalities—such as Greater Sudbury, Temiskaming Shores, Kenora, Red Lake and Terrace Bay—are encouraging compact urban form through their official plans.

The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario 2011 encourages compact urban form in northern Ontario’s five major cities through planning for Strategic Core Areas and promotion of easy access to local stores and services.

This draft Strategy recognizes and supports the important role that compact urban form plays in supporting sustainable, walkable communities and maintaining the unique character of many of northern Ontario’s historic main streets and downtowns.

Sample Action under Consideration

  • Encourage and support the development of official plan policies and local planning decisions that are integrated with planning for infrastructure and public service facilities, and which promote efficient development patterns including access to active transportation. This includes updating land use planning policies that apply to all urban centres, to encourage compact urban form, well-connected street patterns and easy access to stores and services.
5.7 Improve wildlife safety and decrease the impact of roads on natural heritage and biodiversity
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While the highway network in northern Ontario benefits local communities, roadways have a direct impact on wildlife mortality along with habitat loss, fragmentation and quality. Conserving resources and maintaining biodiversity are essential to the health of northern communities.

In northern Ontario, where higher densities of wildlife live near highways, the proportion of collisions involving wildlife is greater than the provincial average. There are initiatives in place and others underway to reduce collisions, including infrastructure that supports wildlife crossings or directs wildlife away from highways.

Priority areas for wildlife-vehicle collision reduction initiatives are shown in Figure 15.

Avoiding significant, known wildlife populations and their habitat when a new highway or road is being planned is the best way to minimize the potential for wildlife-vehicle collisions. Construction of infrastructure that supports wildlife passages above or below new highways could further reduce the potential for such collisions. This could protect motorists from injury and prevent property damage, as well as minimize habitat fragmentation caused by the construction of highways and roads, where wildlife populations and habitat could not be avoided during planning.

Design elements can be incorporated to address habitat fragmentation and maintain biodiversity and local natural heritage features. Early conversation with experts, Indigenous peoples and community members will inform a design that meets local needs.

Action Underway

  • MTO to improve wildlife-vehicle collision reporting in partnership with the OPP, specifically to ensure the type of animal involved in the collision is recorded and reported so that mitigation measures can be targeted.

Sample Action under Consideration

  • Continued implementation of collision reduction initiatives during highway rehabilitation at priority locations.
  • Exploring the potential need for installing wildlife crossing infrastructure during planning and design of new or enhanced infrastructure.
Figure 15: Priority Locations for Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Initiatives
This map highlights stretches of the northern Ontario highway the draft Strategy has identified as priority locations for wildlife-vehicle collision reduction initiatives. The majority of these routes are in northwestern Ontario.

Implementation

This draft Strategy is one of the last steps towards a final Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy and accompanying Action Plan anticipated by the end of 2017. Meanwhile many actions are already underway to address the needs and issues identified through analysis and outreach.

This draft Strategy recognizes that a wide range of partners and multiple sources of funding are needed for successful implementation. While not all actions involve an upfront cost, and many actions fall within existing government budgets, some actions under consideration will require new funding in order to be implemented. Strategies for funding could include partnerships with the federal government, municipalities, industry and others. Through the first and subsequent Action Plans, choices will need to be made to ensure responsible use of public dollars while addressing priority needs.

The first Action Plan will set out initial commitments and next steps for the Ontario Government, the federal government and others as appropriate. Actions may be a combination of short-, medium- and long-term initiatives that can be characterized by four general types of initiatives:

  • Funding/Infrastructure/Operations—actions that will improve the infrastructure or operations of the system with new or realigned funding
  • Planning/Policy—actions that will enhance the transportation planning/policy framework
  • Knowledge Building—actions that build and enhance understanding of the northern Ontario transportation system towards its improved functioning
  • Alignment/Partnership—actions that will align with ongoing planning initiatives and enhance partnerships required for transportation system improvements.

Given the complexity of northern Ontario’s transportation system, and the number of governments and stakeholders involved, implementation will be an iterative and collaborative process. No one agency or ministry will have the capacity to do everything by itself. Achieving the goals and directions identified in this draft Strategy will require the involvement of many individuals and organizations—including the public and private sector and Indigenous peoples, businesses and communities.

Ontario has a legal obligation to consult with Aboriginal peoples where it contemplates decisions or actions that may adversely impact asserted or established Aboriginal or treaty rights. It is committed to meeting its duty to consult with Indigenous communities as it undertakes actions to implement the final Strategy.

Ontario will continue to work with government partners, transportation service providers and industry to identify and remove barriers for people with disabilities. All identified parties that are captured under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, (AODA) or other federal accessibility legislation and who will be implementing the final Strategy and action plans will follow the standards that are articulated under the provincial and federal legislation.

Over the life of the final Strategy’s implementation, it is anticipated that action plans will be created or updated every few years, as resources and opportunities become available, and in response to changes in technology, demographics, economic trends, environmental and climate change impacts, and relevant policies. Progress in implementing the final Strategy will be monitored and subsequent action plans will realign existing actions and identify new ones.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of agencies involved in the governance of northern Ontario with respect to transportation are described below. For more detailed information about governance, policy and funding, please refer to the Draft Phase 1 Report, The Northern Ontario Context: Implications and Considerations for Strategy Development (May 2016) at www.nomts.ca.

The Province of Ontario has significant responsibility for matters relating to transportation and land use planning through a number of ministries.

Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has responsibility for primary highways, as well as for secondary highways in non-incorporated areas beyond the jurisdiction of municipalities and Local Roads Boards. MTO also owns and funds 29 remote airports in the Far North, and licenses shortline railways.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MMA) has land use planning and regulation responsibilities in northern Ontario. These include issuing policy governing land use planning, approving municipal official plans and working with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) to develop overarching plans such as The Growth Plan for Northern Ontario 2011, to which all municipal plans must conform.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) is responsible for Northern roads. This includes the following:

  • Identifying priorities for, and funding expansion and rehabilitation of provincial highways through the Northern Highways Program
  • Funding of unincorporated roads including Local Roads Boards
  • Administering the Winter Roads Program with funding support from the federal department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).

MNDM is also responsible for the oversight of two provincial transportation agencies—the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) and the Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC). The ONTC provides bus and rail services within northeastern Ontario with linkages to other areas of the province (e.g., Southern Ontario). The OSTC provides ferry services between Tobermory and South Baymouth and between Moosonee and Moose Factory. The Province, through MNDM, provides operating and capital support for ONTC and OSTC services.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is responsible for land use planning on, and management of Crown lands under the Public Lands Act as well as the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, and works jointly with First Nation communities to prepare land use plans for the Far North on Ontario under the Far North Act, 2010. Land use plans developed under the Far North Act, 2010 take precedence over other growth plans that may conflict, including the province’s Growth Plan for Northern Ontario 2011.

Indigenous communities and organizations have a central role in planning in Ontario. Under the Far North Act, 2010, the MNRF works with First Nations who indicate an interest in initiating planning, to prepare and jointly approve community based land use plans that clarify where development can occur and where land is dedicated to protection.

There are several different forums and organizations that represent the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples in Ontario.

Please refer to the Draft Phase 1 Report, The Northern Ontario Context: Implications and Considerations for Strategy Development (May 2016) at www.nomts.ca for additional detail.

There are 144 municipalities in northern Ontario. Territory outside municipal boundaries—a majority of the land in northern Ontario—is unincorporated.

Municipalities in Ontario are directly responsible for the land use, infrastructure and municipal services within their boundaries, including transportation. They plan, deliver and regulate municipal roads and transit systems. Municipalities create official plans and by-laws, and approve new developments.

There are varying degrees to which municipalities in the north have been delegated planning approvals for developments. For example, MMA approves consents and subdivisions in Hornepayne. There are also areas outside of municipal boundaries that are covered by Planning Boards that have varying levels of planning approvals.

The federal government’s primary transportation role is regulation. It does not have direct control over land use planning other than for federal lands. Federal regulations include statutes relating to air transportation, railway safety, marine port regulations, the transportation of dangerous goods and border crossing facilities.

The introduction of the First Nations Land Management Act allows First Nation communities to apply to opt out of the land related sections of the Indian Act and assume jurisdiction over their respective reserve lands and resources under their own land code. Successful applicants to join the First Nations Land Management regime assume the administration of all land related issues, including the authority to enact land-related laws and manage the environment and resources. First Nations with direct control over their reserve lands and resources under this framework have reported increased opportunity for investment and economic development10. At least five northern Ontario First Nations are currently administering their own land codes under this framework, with additional communities in the process of developing their own codes.

Appendix: Path to a Draft Strategy

The draft Strategy results from considerable technical analysis and extensive engagement over a 30-month period. The following appendix briefly outlines the research and engagement process for developing the draft Strategy.

After the release of the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario 2011, and leading up to 2015, MTO undertook several detailed background studies of the northern Ontario transportation system. These included researching the transportation requirements for northern Ontario economic sectors, as well as conducting commercial and passenger vehicle surveys. In May 2016, an overall assessment of the region was completed, which culminated in the release of a draft regional assessment report.

Detailed technical analysis of the transportation system began in June 2015 and resulted in publication of a discussion paper and a series of draft technical backgrounders in fall 2016.

The discussion paper, Towards a Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy, summarizes the findings of comprehensive technical analysis across transportation modes and related topics in northern Ontario. It also reflects the pan-northern input received from industry, private businesses, federal and municipal partners, Indigenous peoples, communities and organizations, and various social service providers and organizations, through a variety of engagement and outreach sessions.

To seek feedback on the discussion paper, extensive outreach was conducted throughout northern Ontario—from Moosonee and Moose Factory Island in the northeast to Sioux Lookout in the northwest, Kenora in the west and North Bay in the southeast—in which all points of view were valued. Public Information Centres were held in municipalities and outreach meetings were organized with Indigenous communities. Members of the public were invited to download the paper from the project website and submit comments. Additionally, the paper was posted on the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights registry where people were invited to offer comments.

In total, from November 2015 to February 2017, 30 external outreach meetings were held across northern Ontario to seek input and feedback on the findings, issues, opportunities and emerging strategic directions described in the discussion paper. Ninety submissions were received during the discussion paper comment period, including 60 from individuals, 19 from associations and organizations (including First Nation and Métis organizations), eight from municipalities and three from First Nation communities/councils.

Ministry of Transportation
Ministry of Northern Development and Mines

© Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2017

ISBN 978-1-4868-0313-2 (Print)

ISBN 978-1-4868-0315-6 (PDF)

ISBN 978-1-4868-0314-9 (HTML)

Disponible en français


1. Excerpted and adapted from the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario 2011, page 31.
2. Ontario Budget 2016, http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2016/bk2.html
3. See website http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/trucks/oversize-overweight-permits.shtml for minimum size and weight thresholds.
4. See “The Journey Together: Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples” at https://www.ontario.ca/page/journey-together-ontarios-commitment-reconciliation-indigenous-people.
5. Refer to the technical backgrounders on nomts.ca for more information.
6. For details on how cell coverage gaps were identified, refer to the Draft Highways and Roads Technical Backgrounder (November 2016) at nomts.ca.
7. Working Paper #1 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy, Geographic and Policy Context, IBI Group, December 18, 2015
8. http://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2016/12/09/communique-canadas-first-ministers
9. http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/vehicles/electric/electric-vehicle-chargers-ontario.shtml
10. Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management – Update Assessment of Socio/Economic Development Benefits, KPMG, February 27, 2014,
http://labrc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/FNLM-Benefits-Review-Final-Report_Feb-27-2014.pdf