investigate an accident on Highway 401 just east of Prescott Ontario
Tuesday Nov 28, 2017. A Quebec trucker was arrested early Tuesday
morning hours after two people were killed in a five-vehicle crash late
Monday on Highway 401. Four people were also taken to hospital after the
crash at about 10:30 p.m. Monday between Prescott and Highway 416, one
of them by air ambulance with life-threatening injuries. Tony Caldwell
A day after a bus crash near
Prescott sent dozens to hospital, mayors of rural municipalities
bordering the 401 say highway emergencies are costing their taxpayers
and exposing their residents to danger.
A 54-year-old passenger on the bus loaded with Chinese tourists died
of his injuries, Ontario Provincial Police said Tuesday morning. Other
victims remained in hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Mayors said their hearts go out to the victims and their families.
But at the same time, the incident has reignited questions of the strain
critical incidents place on the municipalities along the 401 corridor.
Among the costs they must shoulder with no or only partial
compensation from the province: road repairs due to heavy use while
traffic is being detoured from the 401 while a collision scene is
cleared and investigated.
Brett Todd, mayor of Prescott and vice-president of the Eastern
Ontario Mayors’ Caucus, says that whenever there is a detour from the
401, whether it's construction or a collision, the town's main street
becomes a "wall-to-wall traffic jam."
That places residents at risk, not only of injuries, but also because
firefighters and paramedics can't respond to calls in a timely manner,
he said. "When the 401 is closed, I don't sleep at night."
Mayors have been calling for 401 expansion for years without a serious response from the government, he said.
"It's really not a partisan issue here. We're all united in the fact
that we need to expand the 401. We just need to get Queen's Park to
listen to us."
Detours cause significant pressure on county roads used as detours,
said Ian McLeod, the mayor of South Glengarry and warden of Stormont,
Dundas and Glengarry.
Upper-tier roads, typically two-lane paved county roads constructed
to a higher standard, are designated as detour roads. "But anyone with a
GPS tries to find the quickest way back onto the highway," he said.
"We have trucks going on roads that are not designed for that. And
the substrate gets damaged. If we submit the costs to the province, we
won't get any compensation."
Rural municipalities are also called upon to provide service to calls
on Highway 401, whether it's a serious accident or a motorist whose
engine has overheated, he said.
About half of the calls are not compensated by the province, said
McLeod, who estimates the cost to his municipality is between $20,000 to
$30,000 a year. Calls for paramedics to the highway also take those
services away from taxpayers who have paid for those services, he said.
There is even the occasional case where a 401 crash ends up costing a
municipality money. In one example, a vehicle left the highway, went
through a fence and ended up on a municipal road, says McLeod. There was
no compensation from the province.
On another occasion, a fire truck on its way to a call in inclement
weather was involved into an collision and flipped into a ditch. The
fire truck was a writeoff and it cost $350,000 to replace it. A
volunteer firefighter on the truck has still not returned to work. The
province's response was to go to the municipality's insurer, said
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Transport said the province
supports the funding of municipal roads and bridges in smaller
municipalities through programs such as the Ontario Community
Infrastructure Fund, which provides municipalities with a total of up to
$200 million a year to invest in infrastructure. The fund also
provides up to $100 million a year on application-based funding.
Municipalities are reimbursed for the cost of providing emergency
fire and rescue services on provincial highways owned by the ministry,
but the province does not pay for emergency services on municipal roads
as a result of detours. Municipalities can bill drivers directly for
emergency services, she said.
In March 2017, a 30-vehicle crash near Mallorytown east of Kingston
killed the driver of a tractor trailer and sent 29 people to hospital,
including 13 first responders who underwent decontamination after
hydrofluoric acid spilled at the scene. The 401 was closed for 30 hours.
Volunteer firefighters with the township of Leeds and the Thousand
Islands responded to the call. The municipality had to spend more than
$250,000 the replace breathing equipment and bunker gear because it was
contaminated, said Mayor Joe Baptista. The municipality was eventually
compensated, but only because it was a provincially significant
incident, he said.
Baptista said the firefighters were well prepared for the incident.
Although the municipality has fewer than 10,000 residents, it has its
own training centre.
"We are at the heart of three major transportation corridors. We have
rail, we have the 401 and we have the St. Lawrence River," said
Baptista. "The law of averages means eventually you'll have to deal with
a major incident."
In the wake of the spill, then-transportation minister Steven Del
Duca agreed to work with representatives of the Eastern Ontario
Wardens’ Caucus and the mayors’ caucus to improve the safety of
transporting hazardous goods.
Robin Jones, warden of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville,
said the working group succeeded in getting stakeholders together,
including the province, Transport Canada and the Ontario Trucking
The group came to a consensus about seven recommendations, including a
study of high-risk factors that contribute to distracted and aggressive
driving and the potential for standardized training for drivers who
transport hazardous goods.
"The way of moving forward is to continue to build consensus and ways
to make the highway safer," said Jones. "I think it's doable. This
working group was unprecedented in the number of stakeholders that came
What would the parties do if they won?
• In their platform, the Progressive Conservatives say they will
"actively explore potential for high-speed rail and highway projects
including the potential of widening to six lanes Highway 401 to the 416
between Toronto and Ottawa."
• The NDP's platform commits to restoring and increasing the Ontario
municipal partnership fund, which is the main transfer to
municipalities. The NDP says this would allow communities to make
locally focused decisions on how best to improve roads in their
communities. The NDP would also bring winter road maintenance back into
• The Liberals say their platform increases annual funding to the
Connecting Links program by $30 million year. The program supports the
rehabilitation or reconstruction of municipal roads or bridges that
connect two ends of a provincial highway through a community.
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