Draft 2041 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy
- Draft 2041 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy (July 2017)
- Draft 2041 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy: Executive Summary (July 2017)
Download PDF documents:
- Draft 2041 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy (July 2017) (PDF 11 MB)
- Draft 2041 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy: Executive Summary (July 2017) (PDF 1 MB)
- Oji-Cree: ᐱᓇᒪ ᑎᐸᒋᒧᐃᐧᐣ 2041 ᑭᐁᐧᑎᓄᐠ ᐅᐣᑌᕑᐃᔪ ᓇᓇᑲ ᐱᒥᔭᐃᐧᐣ ᐊᐧᐁᐧᓇᒋᑫᐃᐧᐣ
(PDF 11 MB)
- Oji-Cree: ᐱᓇᒪ ᑎᐸᒋᒧᐃᐧᐣ 2041 ᑭᐁᐧᑎᓄᐠ ᐅᐣᑌᕑᐃᔪ ᓇᓇᑲ ᐱᒥᔭᐃᐧᐣ ᐊᐧᐁᐧᓇᒋᑫᐃᐧᐣ ᐅᑭᒪᐃᐧᐣ ᑎᐸᒋᒧᐃᐧᐣ
(PDF 1 MB)
This draft 2041 Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy (the draft Strategy) was developed to guide transportation policy, program and investment opportunities for a modern and sustainable transportation system in northern Ontario.
The draft Strategy sets out a vision and five goals to improve and transform the transportation system of northern Ontario over the next 25 years. The goals are supported by 37 directions to guide the creation of the multimodal transportation system of the future. These directions build upon the solid foundation of today’s system, and the significant investments made in northern Ontario infrastructure and programming to date.
MTO and MNDM are considering public comments and feedback on the goals and directions included in this document, to inform work towards the final Strategy and Action Plans.
- Discussion Paper – Towards a Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy (October 2016)
- ᑲᐃᐧᐊᓄᑲᑌᐠ ᑭᐁᐧᑎᓄᐠ ᐅᐣᑌᕑᐃᔪ ᓇᓇᑐᐠ ᐱᒧᑫᐃᐧᓇᐣ ᐊᐧᐁᐧᓇᒋᑫᐃᐧᐣ ᐱᓇᒪ ᐊᓂᒧᒋᑫᐃᐧ ᐱᐸᐣ
- Draft Technical Backgrounders for Discussion Paper
- Draft Phase 1 Report – The Northern Ontario Context: Implications and Considerations for Strategy Development (May 2016)
- Draft Socio-Economic Context Working Paper (February 2016)
- Draft Climate Change Context Working Paper (January 2016)
- Draft Geographic and Policy Context Working Paper (December 2015)
- Transportation Requirements for Economic Development Sectors in Northern Ontario (CPCS 2013)
- Commercial Vehicle and Passenger Surveys and Reports (IBI, 2013)
Links and Other Materials
The discussion paper summarizes the findings of comprehensive technical analysis across transportation modes and related topics in Northern Ontario. It also reflects the iterative and pan-Northern input and advice received to date from industry, federal and municipal partners, residents of the region, First Nations peoples and communities, Métis peoples and communities, urban Indigenous peoples, and various social service providers and organizations.
Draft Technical Backgrounders for Discussion Paper
These draft technical backgrounders were prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Northern Development and Mines by the consultant team to assist the ministries in developing the Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy. The opinions and ideas in these backgrounders are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the ministries or of the Government of Ontario.
- International Borders
- Intercommunity Passenger Transportation
- Marine Transportation
- Winter Roads
- Rail Freight
- Remote Airports
- Municipal Airports
- Highways and Roads (includes Roads Connecting First Nations, Trucking, Rest Areas)
Executive Summary – Draft International Borders Technical Backgrounder (November 2016)
This technical backgrounder provides an overview of the international road bridges in Northern Ontario, including operational characteristics, travel patterns, issues and opportunities. Northern Ontario has four road connections to the United States. From west to east these are Rainy River, Fort Frances, and Pigeon River, which connect to Minnesota, and Sault Ste. Marie, which connects to Michigan.
The federal Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is responsible for immigration enforcement and customs services at the crossings. The Province of Ontario is directly responsible for operations at Rainy River and Pigeon River. The Province of Ontario also has a potential role in assisting in the provision and maintenance of infrastructure supporting the crossings.
In total across the four bridges, there were 3.0 million passenger vehicle crossings and 125,000 commercial vehicle crossings in 2015. Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge has the highest traffic volumes of the four crossings. Passenger vehicle drivers/passengers cross the border for a variety of purposes and trip purpose is associated with the country of residence. Vehicles registered to Canadian residents represented 74% of crossing volumes in 2015. Shopping is by far the most common passenger vehicle trip purpose for Canadian residents, especially at Sault Ste. Marie and Fort Frances, followed by casino trips and other recreation purposes. By contrast, US residents tend to cross the border for a specific tourist attraction, general vacation, or fishing/hunting in Northern Ontario. The majority of passenger traffic at the borders is short distance trips, but Sault Ste. Marie sees the highest volume of longer distance trips. All crossings have peak passenger vehicle traffic levels in the summer months. In terms of goods movement, total trade across the crossings totals $3.5 billion annually with the majority crossing at Sault Ste. Marie, followed by Pigeon River, Fort Frances, and Rainy River.
Issues at Ontario’s border crossings include difficulty accommodating wide loads in Fort Frances due to tight turns approaching the crossing and nearby train activity temporarily blocking highway routes to the crossing. Border wait times can also be an issue at Fort Frances and at Sault Ste. Marie. Road connections and stopping/parking facilities can also be an issue with limited parking for trucks in Fort Frances and no direct connection to the provincial highway system in Sault Ste. Marie. To improve operations at border crossings, designated truck lanes and on-site inspection facilities could be improved where there is a need. Improvements could also be made in the form of pull-off locations near border crossings for truckers to submit required manifests, and improved communications using variable message signs for travellers approaching borders.
Executive Summary – Draft Tourism Technical Backgrounder (November 2016)
This technical backgrounder describes government responsibilities for the tourism sector in Northern Ontario, provides an overview of tourism visits to Northern Ontario, describes tourist travel considerations by travel mode, and includes future outlooks, issues and opportunities for tourism-related transportation in Northern Ontario.
The vast natural areas and unique culture of Northern Ontario provide a strong tourism product that attracts visitors from both near and far: in 2012, half of Northern Ontario’s 8 million visitors were from within the region itself, over a quarter visited from other parts of Ontario, and most of the rest were from the US and other Canadian provinces. The tourism sector contributed more than $930 million to the GDP of Northern Ontario in 2015, and over 9,000 Northern Ontario tourism-related businesses are involved in the industry.
Within the Ontario Government, tourism development in Northern Ontario is largely the responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS), which provides support through Regional Tourism Organizations (RTOs).
Outdoor and nature-based activities are the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ontario, with fishing, boating, and other outdoor activities making up the top three activities among the US, Canadian, and Ontario markets. The volume of visitors is tied to weather, the price of gasoline, and the value of the Canadian dollar. The summer months are the most popular time to visit Northern Ontario, with almost twice the number of visits than during the winter months. Tourist trip volume flows are largest in Northeastern Ontario, where a significant number of visitors drive between Central/South Ontario and the Sudbury/North Bay area.
Currently, most tourists rely on private cars to reach Northern Ontario and to move around the region. In 2015, 94 per cent of visits from the US and 89 per cent of overseas visitors used the auto mode upon arrival in Ontario. Recreational marine vessels were the second most frequently used mode of entry in 2015, with Sand Point Lake east of Fort Frances registering the largest number of visitors. Tourism is expected to grow 15 to 20 per cent in the region by 2041. Key factors contributing to this growth include longer warmer seasons due to ongoing climate change, population growth in surrounding tourist source markets, and an aging population with rising incomes.
Challenges experienced by the Northern Ontario tourism sector include fluctuating populations, passenger transportation challenges, insufficient tourist information along popular routes, general highway challenges described in the Highways and Roads Technical Backgrounder, and the desire of some tourists to expand hunting and fishing areas.
While there are challenges there are also numerous opportunities, including the potential to facilitate tourism travel through highway improvements to attract and serve new tourists, growth in neighbouring tourist markets, infrastructure investments in other sectors, an increasing interest in Indigenous tourism opportunities, and a potentially longer marine travel season.
Draft Tourism Technical Backgrounder (PDF 3 MB)
Executive Summary – Draft Intercommunity Passenger Transportation Technical Backgrounder (November 2016)
In Northern Ontario, a viable network of intercommunity passenger transportation options is an essential piece of the multimodal system. Many residents are dependent upon intercommunity transportation services to access essential services and social activities located in larger centres. This draft technical backgrounder describes intercommunity passenger transportation in Northern Ontario including service and ridership provision and trends, outlooks, issues and opportunities.
Passenger travel modes in Northern Ontario include rail passenger services, scheduled intercommunity bus services, community transportation service, and scheduled air passenger travel (discussed in further detail in two airport technical backgrounders). These services provide options that are potentially safer, more convenient, more economical, and more environmentally sustainable than driving a personal vehicle between communities. However, providing intercommunity transportation in Northern Ontario is especially challenging, given the long distances, severe weather conditions, low population densities and the need for enhanced coordination among providers.
Limited rail service is currently provided by VIA Rail’s transcontinental (The Canadian) and Sudbury-White River (The Northern Ontario) routes, and by the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission’s (ONTC’s) Polar Bear express route. Intercommunity buses are operated by the ONTC motor coach services and by private businesses regulated through the Ontario Highway Transport Board (OHTB). There is a concurrent MTO initiative to modernize the regulatory environment for intercommunity bus providers province-wide, and alternative service delivery models are also being studied. Numerous community transportation services are run by a range of organizations to help close transportation service gaps, though these are generally limited to targeted client groups (e.g. seniors, health care patients). Funding for community transportation pilot projects is available through the Provincial Community Transportation Grant Program.
Potential intercommunity passenger transportation demand is generally proportional to the passenger vehicle flows along a given corridor. Based on current passenger vehicle flows, highway corridors with significant intercommunity passenger transportation demand are the highway links connecting North Bay and Sudbury to Toronto, Highway 17 between Sudbury and North Bay, Highways 6 and 17 between Sudbury and Manitoulin, and Highway 17 between the Ontario-Manitoba border and Dryden.
While rail service is costly to provide, its ridership has been relatively stable for travel to/from/within Northern Ontario. Private-sector bus companies have found the Northern Ontario market challenging, and Northern Ontario has been experiencing service reductions and discontinuances over the years by all of the major bus operators. Issues include infrequent and inconvenient service schedules, and insufficient infrastructure for shelter. Opportunities include a stable population with growth in certain areas such as Manitoulin, Sudbury and North Bay.
Executive Summary – Draft Marine Transportation Technical Backgrounder (November 2016)
Bordered by the Great Lakes to the south and Hudson and James Bay to the north, and with numerous smaller lakes and waterways throughout, Northern Ontario has significant potential for marine transportation services. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system, marine resupply operations on James Bay and Hudson Bay, and ferry and passenger services make up Northern Ontario’s marine transportation system. This draft technical backgrounder outlines the current state of marine transportation in Northern Ontario, and discusses outlooks, issues, and potential opportunities for this sector.
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway (GLSLS) System permits the passage of ocean-going vessels as far as the western shore of Lake Superior, the passage of lake traffic to the lower St. Lawrence, and of marine freight traffic between ports within the system. The size of the vessels that can enter the Lakes is limited by the dimensions of the lock chambers along the system. A typical vessel is 23.8 metres wide, 225.5 metres long, and has a draft of 7.92 metres.
Ports in Northern Ontario vary in size, with the ones handling the largest volume of cargo being Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Meldrum Bay. Ports tend to be specialized with Thunder Bay handling mostly grain from Western Canada for export, Sault Ste. Marie handling metallic ores, and Meldrum Bay handling gravel and crushed stone. Marine transportation is best suited for bulk, non-perishable commodities. Substantial storage facilities are needed where goods are not produced or used close to the port. Two Canadian shipping lines carry dry bulk cargo on the Great Lakes: Algoma Central and Canada Steamship lines. A number of other companies provide barge services on James and Hudson Bay. There are also marine passenger services in Northern Ontario, including car and passenger ferries and a few lake cruises, but there are several regulatory challenges to operating the latter.
There have been several developments affecting marine transportation on the Great Lakes. Improved efficiency of competing modes and increases in the size of ocean-going container vessels mean that it can be more efficient to move containers to/from inland destinations by rail to/from ports in Montreal or Halifax than by marine mode via smaller vessels along the GLSLS. Most marine traffic on the Great Lakes is and will continue to consist of bulk commodities, such as grain, iron ore, coal, limestone, aggregates, and potash. Traffic is expected to remain at existing levels. Marine resupply traffic on James and Hudson Bay is also expected to remain stable.
The marine mode faces several issues including limited freight markets for marine shipping, depressed cargo markets, constrained passenger markets, low water levels, lock infrastructure constraints on vessel sizes, and a potential loss of port infrastructure at currently inactive ports. Potential opportunities for the marine mode include capitalizing on the potential increased energy efficiency of the marine mode, a potential expansion of cargo markets, expanded lake cruises on the Upper Lakes, longer ice-free shipping seasons, container vessel operations on the Great Lakes, and improving operation of the St. Lawrence and Welland canal locks.
Executive Summary – Draft Winter Roads Technical Backgrounder (November 2016)
This technical backgrounder provides an overview of Ontario’s winter roads, including road characteristics, jurisdiction and policies, use of winter roads, construction and maintenance guidelines, and issues and opportunities.
Few communities in the Far North have direct all-season road or rail connections. Year-round, these communities primarily make use of remote airports for travel between communities, for delivery of goods, and to access services in urban centres. During deep-freeze conditions, the communities rely also on winter roads to connect them to the all-season road or rail network for the more cost-effective re-supply of essential goods such as fuel, housing materials, food and potable water.
Ontario’s 3,200-km winter road network consists of unpaved, un-graveled routes that are constructed annually over frozen earth, wetlands, lakes, and rivers, allowing vehicles weighing up to tens of thousands of kilograms to travel over the frozen terrain. In 2015-16 vehicle counters were installed on four winter road corridors, and recorded two-way traffic of nearly 5,500 vehicles total across the four corridors. The highest volumes were seen in mid-February near the end of the operating season.
Winter roads are funded through the Northern Ontario Winter Roads program, administered by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) with funding and support from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). Both agencies are providing over $5 million each for the 2016-17 season to individual First Nations and companies, with each funding recipient responsible for the construction and maintenance of a segment of the province’s winter road network. Construction and maintenance guidelines are outlined in a document prepared by MNDM in consultation with remote First Nations.
Winter road users encounter operational challenges related to warm weather and associated road deterioration and closures. There are also challenges with inconsistent winter road quality and opening dates within the same corridor, a lack of construction improvements having long-term impacts, inconsistent and inadequate signage, a lack of rest areas, challenges obtaining information on current road conditions, and the lack of redundancy in the winter road network. There are opportunities to improve winter road travel, which include incremental extensions of the all-season road network, connecting corridors to provide redundancy, enhancing construction practices, exploring alternate methods of winter roads governance, exploring the use of advanced technologies, connecting more communities to the power grid, and exploring partnerships with First Nations Police Services for improved enforcement and education
Draft Winter Roads Technical Backgrounder (PDF 4 MB)
Executive Summary – Draft Rail Freight Technical Backgrounder (November 2016)
Northern Ontario has an extensive railway network that both serves the region and acts as an important transportation link in connecting Canada between east and west, and to international markets. The network serves freight as well as some passenger transportation services. This draft technical backgrounder focuses on rail infrastructure provision and on the movement of rail freight. Passenger rail is discussed in a separate draft technical backgrounder, entitled Intercommunity Passenger Transportation.
Northern Ontario has two Class 1 railways (Canadian National and Canadian Pacific), which mainly serve through traffic for national and international markets. The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) is a regional railway and Crown agency of the Ontario government under the ONTC Act with support from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM). Three shortline railways also service local markets and are regulated under the provincial Shortline Railways Act.
The Class I railways each carry between 20,000 and 40,000 million gross tonnes annually, representing a variety of goods including intermodal containers. Approximately 73 per cent of total rail tonnage moved in Northern Ontario in 2014 was through traffic, half of which was international freight crossing the border near Fort Frances. Among rail freight transported to Northern Ontario, the majority is grain (as well as some potash and coal) originating in Western Canada, shipped from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay on both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific lines and carried onward by marine vessels on the Great Lakes. For rail freight moved out of Northern Ontario, forestry-related products, including logs, wood, and pulp and paper, represent the greatest flows.
The outlook for rail in Northern Ontario is closely tied to the outlook for the commodities carried by rail. Overall, the two Class I railways can be expected to maintain and expand their transcontinental lines, as required to serve the growing traffic. As the Class 1 railways continue to increase volume on their transcontinental lines, more emphasis will be placed on regional and shortlines to act as feeder railways to the larger networks.
Issues for rail in Northern Ontario include financial challenges for shortline and regional railways, storage needs and lack of timely transport, challenges for lower-volume shippers, losing rail assets to track abandonment, the lack of intermodal freight facilities, and concerns about derailments and cargo spillage. Related opportunities include providing support for shortline railways, promoting the rail mode as an energy efficient means of goods movement, examining the feasibility of building intermodal facilities, conserving abandoned rail lines, and continuing to support rail safety.
Draft Rail Freight Technical Backgrounder (PDF 3 MB)
Executive Summary – Draft Remote Airports Technical Backgrounder (November 2016)
This technical backgrounder describes remote airport policies and programs, facilities, operations, services, aircraft, and issues and opportunities. The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) operates 29 airports associated with remote communities in or near the Far North. Of the 29 remote airports, 14 are fully on First Nation reserve land, 3 are partially on reserve land and 12 are off reserve. In most cases, for most of the year these airports serve as the only reliable transportation connection between these communities and the rest of the province. Remote airports provide access to essential services such as health care, justice services, and higher-level education, as well as trips for business, social and tourism purposes. Air cargo services are also provided.
Like municipal airports, the federal government regulates air carriers and airports through the Canadian Transportation Agency and through Transport Canada. Transport Canada certification is required for airports with scheduled passenger services and as such all MTO remote airports are certified. The Province of Ontario funds 100 per cent of the annual $5.5 million operating costs for remote airports in addition to $2.5 million in capital funds each year for infrastructure rehabilitation.
Most of the airports have a single 3,500 ft. (1,100 m) gravel runway, although a few are longer. Two have paved asphalt runways that are longer. With longer runways, it is possible to land bigger or heavier planes, increasing efficiencies with economic savings that could potentially be passed on to airport customers. The gravel surfaces of most remote airport runways limit the types of aircraft that can use the runways.
The remote populations served by Ontario’s remote airports are among the fastest-growing in Northern Ontario. With a growing population there would be a greater need for access to health care, education and other services offered in larger centres, and the dependence of Northern Ontario communities on remote airports is expected to continue to increase.
Remote airports are facing several long-term planning challenges. Remote airports have facilities that are aging and will eventually require upgrading. Remote airports also need extended service hours and/or on call staffing. Remote airport operating hours are set as 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday and rely on the services of a single foreperson. Longer operating hours would be more in line with the hours that the airports are needed. The airports also lack passenger and carrier waiting facilities and advanced navigational aids. Travelling between the airport and local community can also be challenging with many travellers unable to drive or obtain a ride.
The extension of the all-season road network would create the opportunity to bring goods closer to the remote communities by road, reducing the remaining distance for traveling to remote communities by more costly air transport. In the future, given the critical role remote airports will continue to serve in providing medical and social service needs, consolidated services for air carriers through partnerships with each other and/or with local communities will be important to explore.
Draft Remote Airports Technical Backgrounder (PDF 2 MB)
Executive Summary – Draft Municipal Airports Technical Backgrounder (November 2016)
This technical backgrounder provides an overview of the current state of municipal airports in Northern Ontario and includes details on air carrier/airport policy and funding, Northern Ontario air services, and municipal airport facilities. The paper concludes by providing an outlook for municipal airports and discusses several needs and opportunities.
Northern Ontario has 37 municipal airports. Although not all are operated directly by municipalities, they are all owned by public agencies. Some have been set up by regional boards and commissions, and some are operated by not-for-profit corporations. Thunder Bay is not a municipal airport as it is part of the national airport system. Municipal airports in Northern Ontario serve a unique role in the movement of people and in the provision of essential services, such as health services, policing, and fire suppression. Many municipal airports are jumping-off points for services to remote communities, and several also provide important linkages for Northern Ontario to Southern Ontario and to other major communities.
The federal government regulates air carriers and airports through the Canadian Transportation Agency and through Transport Canada. Air traffic control services are provided by NAV Canada. The main funding program for airports is the federal Airport Capital Assistance Program (ACAP), which makes funding available to municipal airports that offer scheduled commercial passenger services. The Province also makes funding available through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, but it is not airport specific.
There are 12 municipal airports in Northern Ontario that offer scheduled passenger service. Aside from Thunder Bay, the busiest airports in terms of passenger numbers are Sudbury and Timmins, each with over 200,000 passengers in 2015. In addition to passenger services, many air carriers offer charter services throughout Northern Ontario.
The main issue for municipal airports is that, while they provide critical services to Northern Ontario communities, almost all are struggling financially and consequently face ongoing issues in planning and delivering cost-effective programs to maintain and expand infrastructure and services. Based on results of a Northern Ontario municipal airports survey, infrastructure at municipal airports tends to be in fair shape, but nevertheless 17-20 per cent of airports with scheduled passenger service report having runways in poor shape. Furthermore, the majority of reporting airports do not have Lateral Navigation Systems, Weather Observation Systems, and LED lighting. Unlike other provinces with northern territories, Ontario does not have a municipal airport subsidy program and both the federal and provincial governments do not have a cohesive funding strategy for smaller airports, particularly those without scheduled passenger service. A more cohesive and reliable funding program would be of great benefit for municipal airports.
Executive Summary – Draft Highways and Roads Technical Backgrounder (November 2016)
This technical backgrounder focuses on the provincial highway network in Northern Ontario, maintained by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO). Related road networks managed by other jurisdictions, namely municipal roads, winter roads, and forest access roads are also addressed, but in less detail. The backgrounder describes the broader road network in Northern Ontario; the physical characteristics of the highway network; current traffic levels and historical trends; some processes and standards for provincial and municipal highway maintenance; an overview of roads connecting First Nations; trucking characteristics; roadway reliability and network resiliency considerations; and highway rest areas. The document describes the outlook for Northern Ontario highways in terms of traffic forecasts through 2041 and summarizes issues and opportunities for Northern Ontario’s highways.
There are over 11,000 km of provincial highways in Northern Ontario funded and maintained by MTO. Highways 11 and 17 are the primary highway corridors, running east-west, connecting the region’s population centres and industries, and both are part of the TransCanada highway system – a network of highways that connects all ten Canadian provinces. Highways are maintained under area maintenance contracts, eight of which cover Northern Ontario. There are also roads maintained by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM), municipalities, and Local Roads Boards and Statute Labour Boards. The most extensive type of road in Northern Ontario are Forest Access Roads: there are over 46,000 km of access roads maintained by the forest industry and governed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Roads that connect First Nation communities to the primary highway network can include any combination of the aforementioned roads.
According to the forecasted outlook, passenger car trips will remain stable across the study period (to 2041), with an overall decrease of only 0.5 per cent. However, some of the highest growth in trips will be due to longer-distance trips to/from higher-growth areas within and outside of Northern Ontario. In terms of vehicle kilometres, the overall impact on the network is a slight traffic flow increase of 3 per cent. Commercial vehicles represented 10% of trips using the Northern Ontario highway network in 2011, and this share is expected to increase to 14 per cent of trips in 2041; however, their impact on the highway network will be much greater when considering that trucks traveling to, from and especially through Northern Ontario travel extremely long distances.
Most roads in Northern Ontario are two lanes wide, with some three- and four-lane sections, and have sufficient capacity to handle existing and forecasted traffic volumes except in heavily used segments on Highways 11 and 17 and some connecting roads. However, a more immediate issue is the high proportion of trucks and their effects in delaying other vehicles, which can lead to accidents caused by improper passing behaviour.
Highway reliability refers to reducing the risk of temporary roadway closures. Highway resiliency refers to the ability to keep traffic moving in spite of road closures when they do occur. Highway resiliency also involves redundancy (having an alternate route), having real-time operational information for travellers, and quickly restoring the closed route. Highways in the North are particularly vulnerable to driving hazards and road closures owing to weather issues and other operational challenges, which can result in lower reliability of travel on the route. Because of the generally wide spacing between parallel highways, the network lacks redundancy and there are four Trans-Canada segments with no redundant route.
Other issues include challenges with the timing and cost of highway rehabilitation projects, adapting the highway system to deal with climate change, gaps in way-finding and real time communications, inconsistent jurisdiction and maintenance for roads connecting to First Nations, large gaps in rest area provision, and the need for improved road connections to and between freight terminals to facilitate intermodal freight movements.
Road transportation is the main mode for serving both passenger and freight movements generated by Northern Ontario’s residents and economic activities, and there are numerous opportunities for improving the system. There is the opportunity for targeted infrastructure investments to increase capacity, reduce traffic delays and improve safety. There is also an opportunity to develop a more resilient highway network through an alternative route strategy. Consistent design standards are also important. Opportunities exist to increase design standards and practices as highway rehabilitation initiatives are undertaken to address safety, efficient goods movement and passenger travel, and climate change adaptation needs.
In terms of roadside infrastructure, there are opportunities to fill gaps in the existing signage and communication facilities such as tourist signage, additional changeable message signs, providing more broadband coverage along provincial highways, and strengthening the 511 system. There is also a growing recognition that rest areas need to be improved, for example by upgrading current seasonal rest areas to be operated year-round and adding additional all-season rest areas.
Opportunities exist to clarify and enhance policies and programs, accompanied as appropriate with capital and operating funding, to better support the transportation connections between First Nations in Northern Ontario and the broader transportation network.
Additional opportunities include identifying Northern Ontario highways that are well suited for cycling lanes, improving facilities and communications at and approaching border crossings, supporting economic development in the Far North by upgrading highways that lead to the Ring of Fire area, and improving overall collaboration and partnerships between Indigenous, municipal, federal and private sector partners for the construction, operations, maintenance, and policing of Northern Ontario highways and related road networks.
Draft Highways and Roads Technical Backgrounder (PDF 26 MB)
Draft Highways and Roads Technical Backgrounder Appendices (PDF 2 MB)
Draft Phase 1 Report – The Northern Ontario Context: Implications and Considerations for Strategy Development (May 2016)
This draft report summarizes findings of Phase 1 Regional Assessment work of the Strategy development process. The report highlights key findings of the three Phase 1 technical background working papers. It also outlines considerations and implications as they relate to seven NOMTS planning objectives.
Draft Phase 1 Report (PDF 3 MB)
Draft Socio-Economic Context Working Paper (February 2016)
The Draft Socio-Economic Context Working Paper describes existing and future potential population characteristics as well as existing and future potential economic sector performance. Settlement patterns, including growth or decline in population and employment levels, as well as economic activity in Northern Ontario resource-based and population-based sectors, are primary drivers of transportation demand. This working paper provides demographic and economic analysis that will serve as one of multiple inputs to the Strategy development and its eventual identification of action options for transportation policy, program and investment opportunities in Northern Ontario.
Draft Climate Change Context Working Paper (January 2016)
The Draft Climate Change Context Working Paper describes how a changing climate affects the current northern transportation system today and in the future. It outlines current climate change mitigation strategies and it provides guidance on how future transportation planning can align with and enhance climate change adaptation strategies.
Draft Climate Change Context Working Paper (PDF 8 MB)
Draft Geographic and Policy Context Working Paper (December 2015)
The Draft Geographic and Policy Context Working Paper describes the physical geography characteristics of Northern Ontario and how these have shaped the transportation system and the settlement patterns in the North today. It also summarizes current governance structures, policies and programs as they apply to Northern Ontario and key implications for future transportation planning.
Draft Geographic and Policy Context Working Paper (PDF 4 MB)
Transportation Requirements for Economic Development Sectors in Northern Ontario (CPCS 2013)
This Study examined the transportation needs for mining, forestry, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism. The report provided a complete year 2011 supply chain picture of commodity flows for each sector and forecast future commodity flows based on current flows and industry forecasts.
Full Report (PDF 12 MB)
Presentation (PDF 8 MB)
Commercial Vehicle and Passenger Surveys and Reports (IBI, 2013)
Origin-destination surveys were undertaken at 37 commercial vehicles sites and 10 passenger vehicle sites, including all four (4) international border crossings in Northern Ontario. These surveys identified patterns of movement of people and commodities to/from and through the Northern Ontario highway road network. The passenger and commercial vehicle data collected has formed a robust cordon and series of screen-lines, which has helped MTO achieve a high level of confidence in our knowledge of travel to support the development of a strategic overview of the transportation system.
Commercial Vehicle Travel Profile (PDF 8 MB)
Traffic and Vehicle Classification Summary (PDF 2 MB)
Commercial Vehicle Survey Appendices (PDF 17 MB)
Passenger Vehicle Travel Profile (PDF 4 MB)
Passenger Traffic and Vehicle Classification Summary (PDF 2 MB)
Passenger Vehicle Survey Appendices (PDF 22 MB)