RRDMA not happy with area road conditions
By Heather Latter
The Ministry of Transportation believes Transfield Services Ltd. is meeting the requirements of its maintenance contract for area highways but delegates at the Rainy River District Municipal Association’s annual general meeting Saturday in Barwick made it clear they don’t agree.
“We’ve carried out some audits and they have had a few problems, but all-in-all they have done pretty well,” noted Wayne Prystanski, MTO’s manager of operations for the Northwest Region, reminding municipal leaders it is only Transfield Services’ first year on the job.
“They are meeting the requirements of their contract,” he added.
“They are out there working every day.”
However, despite Prystanski’s reassurance that local highways are up to proper standards, municipal delegates voiced their concerns about road conditions.
“This competency you’re talking about, all we see [are] very, very bad [roads],” said La Vallee Coun. Jim Belluz.
“We’re never had highways like this before,” said another delegate.
Others cited the numerous accidents that have occurred on area highways this winter, wondering if the audits done by MTO take collisions into account.
“It could be the roads but it could also be the drivers,” Prystanski countered.
Lake of the Woods Township Mayor Val Pizey was adamant the service on the highways is inadequate.
“They way I see it is when you put it out to a third party, they have to make money, so they either cut the service or the wage they are paying their employees,” she remarked, adding she knows it’s possible to keep the roads in better shape.
“I understand the comments, concerns, and worries you have,” Prystanski told those on hand.
“You need to call [Transfield Services] directly,” he advised. “If there is no action, then come to the ministry.”
Prystanski indicated if the contractor does not meet the standards, there are financial penalties, as well as infractions which can reduce the company’s ability to bid on future contracts.
“But at this time, they are meeting the standards,” he reiterated, adding Ontario’s snow and ice control standard is consistent with the best practices used across North America.
“Our maintenance standard has not changed,” he noted.
Prystanski explained there are five highway classes for winter maintenance based on the winter traffic volumes (vehicles per day).
Highways in Rainy River District range from Class 2 to Class 5. The standard for Class 2 highways is “bare pavement within 16 hours following end of winter event” while the Class 5 standard is “snow packed within 24 hours following end of winter event.”
“The ministry’s goal and service commitment is to achieve bare pavement standard after winter storms 90 percent of the time on average across the province,” Prystanski said, though conceding that sometimes the weather doesn’t allow compliance in every event.
He noted the weather this winter has made highway conditions very difficult to manage, referring to the freezing rain and snow at the beginning of the season, followed by the drop in temperature.
“When the temperatures are too low to use salt, we have to go to sand,” he said.
Prystanski said the ministry uses various tools and techniques to oversee the contractors, such as monitoring all equipment and activities using a GPS-based system, field inspections by selective audits, and document reviews.
He added all winter equipment is equipped with Automated Vehicle Location System technology, which is capable of tracking, storing, and reporting movement and actions while in use 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The information is stored in a database for later retrieval. It provides information such as location, speed, operation (plowing or spreading), type of material (sand or salt), and application rates.
Prystanski said the public can help by letting the contractor or ministry know if they have a concern about the winter maintenance services.
“We need the ear of the public,” he reasoned.
To express a concern, people can e-mail email@example.com or call the 1-800 information line.
For urgent concerns, they can contact Transfield Services Ltd. directly at 1-888-933-3326.
“We want people to be safe while travelling,” Prystanski said, adding drivers should slow down and drive according to weather and road conditions.
Other safe driving tips include keeping a safe distance between the vehicle ahead, give yourself extra time to get to your destination, and keep a winter survival kit inside the vehicle.