Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation is trying to make it easier for drivers to find out the road conditions on the province’s highways.

As part of a pilot project, the ministry has updated the interactive map on their 511 Travel Information Services website.

The MTO is using their 148 existing weather information stations on Ontario highways to help predict the short-, medium- and long-term road conditions, said Astrid Poei, a communications consultant with the ministry.

Poei said all of the highways will be monitored and the conditions reported upon every three hours, making forecasted driving conditions much more precise.

“Things can change in an instant,” Poei said. “[This service] is like another brush stroke in a larger picture.

“Before there was observed road conditions [on the website], based on observations of contractors in the field. Now, we have road weather information systems.”

Roadside weather station

There are 148 Road Weather Information Stations across the province, which will be providing data to the 5-1-1 website. (Ministry of Transportation Ontario)

The weather information systems are large, white towers on the side of the highway.

“There’s a dish that’s drawing atmospheric conditions, [and] sensors in the pavement,” Poei said. “[Data] is drawn from the temperature of the pavement.”

The data is then sent to the 511 website, where drivers can determine if they’re willing to brave the conditions or not. Poei called the gauge they’ll be using “the drivability index,” and the website illustrates it in familiar colours.

“We’ve done it like a stop light,” Poei said.  “Green is good conditions, yellow is fair, red is poor,” she said.

The entire reporting system becomes more accurate, Poei said, because along with travelling speeds and live cameras, drivers can base their decisions on this additional information.

“For us, it [the pilot project] is unchartered territory,” Poei said. “It’s just one piece among many. But our goal is to just help drivers better plan their time of travel.”