Design and engineering

Safety in the snow and ice on the 407 ETR highway

01 of July of 2014

Anyone who has spent a winter in Canada can understand why hockey is Canada’s national sport. Winters are extremely cold and are accompanied by plenty of snow and ice as temperatures often go below -15ºC. Winter presents a special challenge for 407 ETR’s highway operations team and a result, the team has built up a great deal of expertise in responding to winter conditions and keeping the highway fast, safe and reliable for all of our customers.

Highway 407 ETR spans 108 kilometers across the top of the Greater Toronto Area and the length of the motorway means the team must deal with differing weather conditions within the various segments of the road.

The 407 ETR Highway Operations team made an extra effort this winter season, which has been the coldest in 20 years owing to the effects of a “polar vortex” that brought some of the regions largest snowfalls, blizzards and ice conditions in recent memory. As 407 ETR customers have come to rely upon a safe and predictable commute along the highway – and frequently note our excelllent winter maintenance as a reason for using the roadway – the team here at 407 ETR dedicates considerable efforts and very long hours to ensuring the roadway remains in safe condition.

Decisions made by the team are designed not only to respond to any issues which might arise, but to anticipate them. One of the ways this is done is through our 24/7 central control center where weather changes are constantly being tracked and the control center staff are in constant contact with patrollers who monitor conditions across the highway. In winter, the activity of the department are greatly intensified to meet standards,  maintain highway safety and minimize any risks that may be generated by snow and ice.

A model of winter management

To achieve these goals, we have developed a winter management model in which we hire a crew to undertake the operations and a supplier that provides the equipment (snow plows and salt spreaders), while 407 ETR directs the process and supplies the salt and deicing materials.  This winter was a record season for the use of de-icing salt!

As winter conditions can change quickly, first response staff lives onsite during the winter to ensure an immediate response to a winter event. The key for meeting winter snow clearing objectives is advance planning and the committed staff who implement those plans. When a winter event begins, the team dedicates all their time and effort to keeping the road clear of snow and ice for drivers. We are certainly fortunate and proud to have a team who regularly demonstrates that they stop at nothing to carry out their work.

High quality winter maintenance remains an important value for toll road customers, as this is one of the ways customers can save both time and money while travelling – even in winter conditions.  Recent research has confirmed these findings and has also noted other quality of life benefits that come as a result of having a more predictable commute that leaves more time for the things that matter most to customers.  Knowing our customers acknowledge and appreciate the services we provide continues to motivate the team to do their very best every day – regardless of how challenging our cold winter weather can become.

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