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Contracting out road maintenance led to more dangerous winter driving: Auditor General

Irene Preklet, 680News

Last Updated Apr 29, 2015 at 6:54 pm EDT

Ontario may have saved money when it moved to contract out road maintenance to the lowest bidders in 2009, but according to a new report, the true cost was more dangerous driving conditions.

In a scathing report, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk examined winter maintenance on Ontario’s highways and found drivers faced “less safe winter highway conditions” and longer wait times for roads to be cleared since contracting out started.

For example, in 2009-2010, it took just over two hours to reach bare pavement after a snowstorm on major highways. By 2013-2014, that time more than doubled.

Lysyk says in many cases the lowest bidder for winter road maintenance contracts did not have the proper equipment to clear roads after a snowstorm, but still got the job.

In one case, the Auditor General noted that a northern Ontario contractor actually refused to clear snow. (see photo below)

reportpic

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca responded to the report, saying “more must be done.”

“Let me assure you, we will take action and we will get it right.”

Del Duca says he’s directed ministry staff to provide an action plan within 60 days “that outlines plans to further strengthen and improve winter maintenance, while addressing the Auditor’s recommendations…”

The Opposition said it’s too little too late.

“For five years this government knowingly risked the lives of Ontario motorists to save a few dollars,” said Michael Harris, Conservative transportation critic.

The report comes in the wake of criticism of snow removal on some highways this past winter.

Read the full report below or click here for a mobile-friendly version.

Winter Highway Maintenance