SOUTH BAYMOUTH—The sudden appearance of a pair of cameras mounted at the corner Highway 6 and Duck’s Bay Road in South Baymouth was cause for major concern for many area residents who wondered who had placed the cameras there and why. People in Meldrum Bay will soon have similar questions.
Karen Gerrard, clerk-treasurer of Tehkummah Township, told The Expositor that she was unaware of the reasoning behind the mystery cameras, which are complete with solar panels. The installation is near municipal landfill property and many other curious parties had contacted the municipal office with enquiries, the clerk explained. Her guess was that it was part of the Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) new roads monitoring system, which was unveiled earlier this month. Turns out Ms. Gerrard was correct in her assumptions.
“The MTO is committed to keeping Ontario’s highways as safe as possible during winter weather conditions,” Bruce Sedgwick, area contracts engineer for the MTO, Sudbury District, told The Expositor in an email. “Significant efforts are made in order to make Ontario’s highways safe and to provide efficient winter maintenance services for the public. The ministry continually reviews standards, new technology, equipment and materials to improve winter maintenance practices. All of these efforts contribute to Ontario’s record of having among the safest roads in North America.”
“Ontario uses state-of-the-art technology to keep highways safe for winter driving, to make sure snow and ice are removed quickly and efficiently and to use salt in an environmentally responsible way,” Mr. Sedgwick continued. “The Road-Weather Information System (RWIS) helps to predict winter weather and highway conditions. There are 148 similar installations across Ontario that monitor current conditions and provide site-specific forecasts. This helps maintenance crews prepare the right equipment and materials before a storm, act quickly once the storm arrives and adjust their activities as conditions change. The RWIS utilizes cameras and sensors to monitor pavement surface conditions, wind, amounts and type of precipitation, air temperatures, dew points, as well as future weather forecasts for the local area.” This includes the camera located at South Baymouth.
“The RWIS station you observed on Highway 6 in South Baymouth is part of pilot project to test a new type of mini weather station,” Mr. Sedgwick explained. “The ministry will install 11 of these weather stations this winter to test their effectiveness to determine if they will provide reliable weather data. These weather stations are easy to install and require substantially less capital investment than our permanent network of 148 Road-Weather Information System stations. The cameras on all of the RWIS stations are aimed along the highway to capture images of the road conditions for winter maintenance operations purposes only and to ensure personal information is not captured.”
There is an existing RWIS installed at 10-Mile Point on Highway 6 in addition to the new unit at South Baymouth, and another is being installed on Highway 540 at Meldrum Bay, added Lara Cantin, MTO regional issues and media advisor, Northeast Region. “The two new mini-stations are part of a pilot program and will provide essential weather and road information at the furthest points of Manitoulin Island. The weather can vary across Manitoulin due to effect of the Great Lakes. It can be sunny and clear in Little Current while an intense snow squall is occurring in South Baymouth. As our winter maintenance equipment deploys from the Little Current, Gore Bay and Mindemoya patrol yards, these RWIS stations can provide essential information to our maintenance crews on when and where to deploy equipment. The stations are strategically installed in locations across the province to capture specific weather and road conditions.”
The public can access road condition information, including each Road-Weather Information System, by visiting the Ministry of Transportation Traveller Information Services online at www.ontario.ca/511.
“We anticipate the Road-Weather Information System recently installed on Highway 6 at South Baymouth will soon be available on the Ministry of Transportation Traveller Information System,” Mr. Sedgwick said. “The ministry has also launched two pilot projects called TrackMyPlow, a web-based service showing where winter maintenance equipment is at work in Ontario and a Winter Driving Conditions Forecast on the Ontario511 website.”