Thousands drive along Highway 401 in eastern Ontario on a daily basis, making for tense trips at the best of times. But lately, tense has turned to dangerous.
A construction zone on the 401 near Napanee has seen a number of collisions this spring, including transport truck fire on May 23rd which closed that portion of the highway, and another on May 30th which saw one person killed.
“It just reminds me that it’s an uncomfortable and nervous place to be,” the owner of Corcoran Excavating, Dan Corcoran, said as he looked out at a 401 construction zone near the Highway 15 exit in Kingston.
Corcoran estimates his company hasn’t bid on projects along the 401 in about six or seven years due to safety concerns he noticed first-hand, but also because of concerns brought on by his staff.
“The workforce would rather not work there,” Corcoran said. “So we have just not targeted working on the 401 if it’s at all possible.”
His company has been fortunate that Kingston and the surrounding area has offered enough other work to bid on that it’s been able to survive, even thrive, without working on Canada’s busiest highway.
But Corcoran notes that in an industry where the lowest proposal wins the bid, sometimes important safety measures don’t have a place in the final budget.
“There isn’t an opportunity for the extra special safety features like concrete barriers to protect workers,” Corcoran said. “Sometimes you have to work inside the barrels — it’s just an uncomfortable place to work.”
The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is also aware of just how dire the situation has become.
“The ministry can assure the public that we are taking the most recent collisions very seriously,” MTO communications coordinator, Brandi Duhaime, said in a statement to CKWS TV.
“In eastern Ontario, we have been working with the OPP, the Ontario Trucking Association, eastern Ontario mayors and other trucking associations to address safety and operational improvements in areas adjacent to construction zones,” Duhaime added.