John Vanthof, the MPP for Timiskaming-Cochrane is making the case once again for why Highway 11 North needs more lanes.

Vanthof was reacting to the weekend crash last week where a tractor-trailer went into a Temagami-area lake.

The OPP had to close the highway for nearly 12 hours last Thursday so crews could remove the big truck.

The closure of the highway in both directions forced motorists to detour through Quebec using Highway 101.

Vanthof says the crash site by Angus Lake is an area where there are no nearby detours which resulted in motorists having to pass through Quebec.

Vanthof says we need to minimize the number of road closures on Highway 11 as the result of collisions.

He acknowledges that creating four lanes from North Bay to Temagami would easily cost hundreds of millions of dollars and might be even closer to the $1 billion mark.

However Vanthof says there is an alternative and it’s called creating two plus one lanes.

This is essentially three lanes where two of the lanes go in one direction for several kilometres while the single lane travels in the opposite direction.

After several kilometres the single lane opens up into two lanes and what was the two lane stretch of roadway narrows back to one lane.

The switchover is repeated over and over again essentially creating  continuous passing lanes.

Vanthof says the concept is being used successfully in Sweden.

“Sweden has similar weather to Northern Ontario,” Vanthof said.

“It has severe winters and it has the same type of roads as well as the same number of cars and trucks.  But it has considerably less accidents.”

Vanthof says the two plus one lanes in Sweden are also separated by steel cables to prevent vehicles from entering the passing lanes at the wrong time.

Vanthof says a group in Temiskaming is working with the Ministry of Transportation about this concept.

He’d like to see a pilot project take place where the MTO builds a two plus one lane about 20 kilometres in length.

The New Democrat says if the pilot can go ahead it makes sense to put it in an area along Highway 11 where road construction is scheduled to take place.

He adds it also makes sense to create the lane in historically accident-prone areas.

Vanthof says when there’s a collision in one spot, any factor could have caused it.

However when collisions keep taking place in the same area, he says then something else is happening.

Vanthof says this was the case on a stretch of the highway south of Latchford that had a bad “S” curve.

He says after the MTO re-engineered the site, the area has become much safer.

Vanthof says he’s spoken to Progressive Conservative Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli many times about highway safety in the north.

“Vic has been an advocate of road safety,” Vanthof said.

“I’ve got a pretty good relationship with Mr. Fedeli.  I can’t put words in Mr. Fedeli’s mouth but northerners are northerners.  We face the same issues and I hope we can work together and push this issue forward.”

Vanthod admits last week’s incident of the tractor trailer landing in Angus Lake might have still resulted in a highway closure under the two plus one lane scenario, but he adds the closure might not have been as long.

(Written By: Rocco Frangione)