The thin white line: How Northern Ontario’s winter roads are built and kept safe to drive – by Marcus Gee (Globe and Mail – February 24, 2020)

Roy Moonias stands on a rise overlooking a frozen lake bathed in wintry moonlight. In the distance, the headlights of a big fuel truck appear. “It’s coming,” he shouts, holding up his phone to shoot some video.

Mr. Moonias has a professional interest in the truck’s progress: His men built the road it is travelling on. Open for only a few weeks a year, the winter road to his remote Indigenous community passes over muskeg, swamps, eskers, creeks and, finally, this lake. His crew has been striving since November to get it ready: Plowing, smoothing, flooding and clearing fallen timber until everything is just right, or as right as it can be on a road constructed of ice and snow on a foundation of muck.

Now, the road is set for its big test. Snowplows have cleared the ice on the lake, leaving a wide corridor lined by snowbanks that stretches a kilometre and a half from shore to shore. Crews have set up log posts fixed with reflectors to mark the way.

The fuel truck and another one behind it are the first fully loaded transports to get to Neskantaga this season. A couple of hours earlier, Mr. Moonias jerked the cord on his big Husqvarna chainsaw and plunged it, buzzing, into the ice at the middle of the lake.

The 36-inch bar didn’t reach water, so he knows the ice is at least three feet thick, strong enough to support even a truck with 28,000 litres of diesel on board. A sonar device has confirmed the measurement.

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