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smart solutions - northern roads
October 23, 2022

Smart Road Technology Can Make Northern Roads Safer

Implementing smart road technologies can encourage greater safety on Northern roads and are less expensive to build and maintain. These technologies and innovative construction techniques are explored in detail in the latest paper by Northern Policy Institute, Smart Solutions for Northern Roads by William Dunstan.

Smart road technologies implemented in other jurisdictions have proven effective at reducing collisions. Automatic anti-icing installations and weather-adjusted speed limits can reduce winter driving hazards. Advanced speed camera systems can monitor and reduce speeding on extended sections of roads. Fewer collisions mean fewer fatalities and fewer road closures that limit Northern Ontarians’ access to communities, services, and other resources. Crucially, all three technologies have been shown to offer benefits that exceed their implementation costs.

“We don’t need to invent anything new to make our highways safer”, said author William Dunstan, “proven and cost-effective solutions already exist.”

Moreover, innovative technologies offer opportunities to improve the basic construction of roads. Several variants of “self-healing road surfaces” allow the road surface to repair itself as it deteriorates, reducing maintenance costs and related traffic disruptions.

As climate change continues to shorten the winter road season, new all-season roads may be needed to maintain access to critical supplies for isolated communities in the Far North. “Mat roads” that use wooden mats to cross muskeg while using traditional gravel roads on higher ground could halve construction costs for all-season roads.

To improve road safety in the North, the Ontario government should implement proven smart road technologies on many sections of highways. Furthermore, government support ought to be provided for further research and trials to assist the development of equally promising but less proven road construction techniques.

Read the report


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