The Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) was founded in 1894 as an offshoot of the “Good Roads Train” that pulled into Eastern Ontario Rail stations with the latest in road building equipment for local farmers who were in need of better roads for horses and buggies. One of its goals was to prepare municipalities for the transition from horse drawn to horse-less carriages (ie motor vehicles).
The Association remains in place today as a body representing municipal interests in road construction and maintenance to higher levels of government and industry.
The annual conference of OGRA and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association in February, known as the Good Roads Conference, has long been the most prestigious gathering place for rural municipalities each year. In recent years it may have been supplanted by the annual Association of Municipal Organizations (AMO) meeting in late August, but it still draws a large number of municipal council members to the venerable Royal York Hotel in Toronto.
OGRA now has its eyes firmly set on the future, and that means autonomous vehicles, also known by the more descriptive ‘driverless cars’.
In the summer of 2016, OGRA members from some of the technology driven communities in Ontario, most of them in Southwestern Ontario, with the notable addition of Elliott Lake, held a meeting to establish a group called the MACAVO (pronounced Muh-Kay-Vo) which is an acronym for ‘Municipal Alliance for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles in Ontario’.
The alliance has been meeting ever since with a view towards paving the way for the next wave of transportation technology, which is coming at a faster rate than had been anticipated, even a few years ago.
“We openly invite all Ontario municipalities who are prepared to start researching, testing and integrating these technologies in some capacity, to join MACAVO”, said Thomas MacPherson, York Region Manager of Transportation Asset Management and Chair of MACAVO, in November of 2017.
“Efforts across the province need to be co-ordinated to maximize the long-term benefits that CVs [Connected Vehicles] and AVs [Autonomous Vehicles] can provide our communities. At MACAVO, we are ready to work with all CV and AV stakeholders, including: the automobile industry; young entrepreneurs; the education sector; and local, provincial, and federal governments.”
Robert Burlie, then President of OGRA said, “… It is estimated that 50% of all vehicles on our roads will be fully autonomous in the next 15 years and will assist all municipalities who are making substantial efforts to improve road safety and ease traffic congestion. This technology is improving so rapidly that there will certainly be other benefits to all our communities and municipalities in Ontario, and will allow our roadways to be completely transformed for better use by pedestrians, cyclists, public transit, vulnerable users and vehicles."
Municipalities that have joined with MACAVO have been able to designate which of their roads they would like to see become part of a test corridor for CAV’s (Connected Autonomous Vehicles), naming them as “preferred” roads, and to choose which roads they would like to list as “avoid” roads for CAV.
Eastern Ontario is now becoming much more oriented to the issues that MACAVO is working on, ever since the “Windsor to Ottawa CAV (Connected Autonomous Vehicle) Test Corridor” at the most recent Good Roads Conference on February 24.
“Through the municipal and provincial collaboration on this project, we have now identified over 5,500 kilometres of specific municipal roadways across thirty-three municipalities in the area of Windsor to Ottawa”, said current OGRA President Rick Kester.
OGRA Executive Director Rick Tiernay said “based on our findings, this is by far the longest AV test corridor in the world today. Combining this with the fact that the province already has a solid AV Pilot Regulation in place, there is no better place in the world to grow and establish communities and businesses, than in Ontario.”
The test route in Eastern Ontario includes Highway 7, making Central Frontenac, Addington Highlands, and Tay Valley three of the municipalities who are included in the corridor.
In a report to Central Frontenac Council on the preferred route, Deputy Clerk Cindy Deachman pointed out that Central Frontenac has not been involved with MACAVO thus far, but since the test corridor is coming through the township, the township may want to change that.
The township has the option of remaining on the periphery of the project, seeking the status of a “friend of MACAVO” which would enable to the township to stay informed about the test corridor and have access to the mapping that MACAVO has developed, or to take a more active role.
“In order to have optimal information from, and representation to MACAVO, it is recommended that we request to have a staff member appointed. This appointee would have access to the mapping of the preferred/avoid routes, and if Council wanted to include other local roads on that route (either as a preferred or avoid route) we would then have the ability to add those routes to the map,” she wrote in her report.
Central Frontenac Council decided to join MACAVO and appointed Acting Public Works Manager David Armstrong as the township representative to the Alliance.