Urban Councillors Winter Operations Info Session

March 20, 2019

Moderator: Councillor Mathieu Fleury (Rideau-Vanier Ward – 12)

Councillors: Shawn Menard (Capital Ward – 17, Catherine McKenney (Somerset Ward – 14), Jeff Leiper (Kitchissippi Ward 15), staff from Rideau Rockcliffe Ward (13)

City Staff: Kevin Wylie (General Manager, Public Works and Environmental Services) Luc Gagné (Director, Roads and Parking Services), Bryden Denyes (Area Manager, Core Road Services)

Introduction from Staff

KW: Staff have been working around the clock and it’s been the most challenging winter for them all. We are ready for a review of maintenance quality standards. MQS were first developed in 2003 and have not been refreshed since. Especially for sidewalks and multi-use pathways. There is a need for a refresh.

City of Ottawa has 4 different weather zones and receive 4 different weather reports from different sources. We also rely on Environment Canada predictions. Conditions are very different in different zones.

January 2019 was the most snow the City has ever received in that month. We maintained to a snow pack condition for sidewalks and roads – if the snow gets tramped down by cars driving over it, we plow over it but don’t salt. A sand/grit mix is laid down if needed but it does not get plowed down to bare pavement. That in a normal winter is acceptable as it creates an even surface to drive/walk on. That did not work well this season due to our constant freeze/thaw cycles. This is what caused the major ruts in the roads and large thickening of ice.


LG: 505 pieces of equipment- graders, loaders, backhoes, sidewalk machines. 6,000 km worth of roads in Ottawa.

Maintenance standards are based on a series of road classifications – aside from highways which are a class 1 classification

2- four lane roads with a median

3- arterials/collectors

4- rural gravel roads

5- local residential streets

Clearing after snow events is the first priority. In extreme conditions, they prioritize arterials and collector networks, then as resources become available they hit local residential.

Ottawa exceeds minimum provincial maintenance quality standards (for all 411 municipalities in Ontario).


BD: There are Road classification, then sidewalk and pathway classifications

Class 1 Roadway

  1. ex) highway 174, some sections of transitway. Standard: 2 hours from end of storm to bare surface to achieve a bare surface
  • Class 1 a sub classification – Roadways with transit service
  • Class 1 b sub classification – Roadways without transit service

Class 2 Roadway

  1. ex) Wellington. Standard: 3 hours to achieve bare surface after end of storm
  • Class 2 a sub classification – Roadways with transit service
  • Class 2 b sub classification – Roadways without transit service

Class 3 Roadway

  1. ex) Lyon. Standard: 4 hours to achieve bare surface after end of storm
  • Class 3 a sub classification – Roadways with transit service
  • Class 3 b sub classification – Roadways without transit service

Class 4 Roadway

  • Class 4 a sub classification – maintain to bare surface, 5 centimeters of snow to deploy operations
  • Class 4 b sub classification – meter section in the middle is bare, 5 centimeters of snow to deploy operations

Class 5 Residential street

  • Class 5 a sub classification – Standard. Deployment at 7 cm snow (snowpack surface conditions). Have 10 hours to clear by the end of the snowstorm to clear.
  • Class 5 b sub classification – Rear yard laneways. Deployment at 10cm snow. Have 16 hours to clear by the end of a snowstorm to clear.
  • Class 5 c sub classification- Dead end gravel road.

Similar standards for sidewalks:

Class 1 sidewalk maintained to bare surface. Deploy resources at 2.5 cm of snow, 4 hours from end of storm to clear

Class 2a to bare surface ex) O’Connor. Deploy at 5cm of snow and have 12 hours from end of storm to clear

Class 2b to snowpack ex) Chapel. Deploy at 5cm of snow and have 12 hours from end of storm to clear

Class 3 Pure residential. Deploy at 5 cm, have 16 hours to reach snowpack surface condition

Class 4 Unmaintained sidewalk (ex: SJAM)

Question he gets a lot: Why is one side of sidewalk clear and the other side terrible? Phenomenon with North/south sidewalks – one is shaded, one isn’t due to tall buildings and coverings not getting sun. Salting does not work effectively without sunshine, which means city has to do multiple passes to clear those sidewalks


Comments from Councillors

McKenney: McKenney, Leiper, and Fleury have voted against the winter maintenance budget because it doesn’t give enough to staff. Staff do the most they can with the budget they have.

Menard: It has been a tough winter. We asked people to send us feedback of their issues, which we will wrap up into a report

Summary of feedback: residential sidewalks not prioritized, bus stops not cleared, people with mobility issues, narrow roads, elders struggling to remove snow from driveway from plows, high snow banks, ice potholes on road and sidewalk

Leiper: Issue is not on staff, it’s on Council. They are doing the best they can with the resources they have. Driving everywhere is not sustainable. This event is to ensure that you (the people) can put the pressure on us (the elected representatives).

Fleury: Current 2003 Maintenance Quality Standards do not differentiate between road and sidewalk priority. This is something that will need to be included in the review of MQS. In addition, residential sidewalks, especially those that see a high traffic of seniors or close to schools or public amenities should be prioritized similarly to sidewalks on main streets.


Audience Question and Answer Period

General Information about City Winter maintenance activities can be found here: https://ottawa.ca/en/residents/transportation-and-parking/road-and-sidewalk-maintenance/winter-maintenance

  1. Are staff considering AODA standards as part of sidewalk equipment width purchases (rentals)?

Equipment is 1.5 meters wide. Newer sidewalks are 1.8 meters. Definitely within AODA standards. Challenge is that as they plow, there’s not enough space to put snow, but they return back to clear the snow banks.


  1. Is the City considering long term planning (budgeting, climate change, aging population) as part of their snow operations priorities?

Steve Willis, General Manager of Planning Infrastructure and Economic Development is looking at developing a climate change strategy. We do have a great response team in office of emergency measures that are deployed to address emergency climate issues such as major snow events and flooding.


  1. What is the impact of budget on snow removal? change in approach? (seems less frequent)

Snow removal budget: $70M budget this year, last year budget was $68.4. This year it integrated growth metrics. These councillors are supportive of growing the budget. Budget is never a constraint to public safety and deployment will never stop based on budget implications. Staff are constrained to the 2-3% increase. Budget has been flat lined and have not kept up with inflation. We have been under budgeting for last 10 years. It is true staff have gone into a deficit but we know more equipment are being deployed as well as our network is growing in the city.


  1. Can a breakdown of budgets for snow operations (clearing and removal) be shared with community?

Previous budget documents from 2016-present: https://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/budget/previous-budgets


  1. What are the expectations for 2 lane residential streets during snow storms that make for snowbanks on both sides narrowing the street down to 1 passable lane?

Snow removal on city streets with MQS, that speak to the classification of the road and how much snow can encroach. Different standards for different streets. For example, Waverly Street: snow cannot encroach onto the street more than 5 meters. When it does, that would trigger snow removal.


  1. What is the difference between Elgin street priority versus Waverley? (what can be expected in differences)

Elgin street is a class 1 sidewalk: tourist and employment area. Therefore, the sidewalk is maintained to bare surface. And deployment is triggered at 2.5 cm of snow, 4 hours from end of storm.

Waverley: Class 2b sidewalk: maintained to snowpack


  1. Will the City standards reflect population density and not simply road designation as part of the future review?

When the MQS standards were first developed, there was no consideration for pedestrian volumes. These volumes should absolutely take into account in the review. Leiper: please provide the budget numbers (inflation adjusted) when reviewing sidewalk standards.


  1. Are staff being told to go easy on their use of salt/abrasives for sidewalks?

For salting, they have standards for each storm and settings on the trucks. There is a blast function that can apply larger amounts of salt for a particularly icy section which can be used if an employee comes to a problem area and needs more. We don’t ask staff to hold back on salt, we use the appropriate amount of salt for the appropriate weather/road situation.


  1. Does the winter ops team consider claims, injuries and fatalities as part of their priority operations?

They do have a record of claims of injuries, but information is not public. If they see a pattern of incidents, teams can adapt their operations.


  1. What safety standards is the City targeting to ensure public safety, aging populations, pedestrian, etc.?

MQS refresh will look at these factors (aging populations, pedestrians, etc.) and will also look at the gender lens.


  1. Is the City willing to apply blanket parking restriction for residential as part of winter to limit parking to one side of street only?

 MQS refresh will look at a protocol for blanket parking restrictions (residential, bus routes, etc.)


  1. How can City promote the behaviour we our looking for from businesses and residents during following storm?

As part of review, they could tighten the standards of when they have to go out and start clearing. Back in 2003 it was all about cars and pedestrians. Part of the refresh will be looking at when it is appropriate to ban parking entirely. As part of the refresh the city will look at possibly having an adopt a sidewalk to help with sidewalk clearing.


  1. Sloping sidewalks are an issue. What are the City standards to protect winter walkability as part of infrastructure investments?

Sloping sidewalks or drop style sidewalks are standards that the city uses to facilitate easier operations. In some areas, the drop style standards are being used so that it’s easier for the operators to clear snow in these areas. The sidewalk being more at level with the road allows for easier snow removal and a lesser likelihood to have water/ice build-up.


  1. What is the City planning to change in its standards for sidewalk priorities to ensure fast clearing and proper abrasives?

When the Maintenance Quality Standards are reviewed, sidewalk priority is certainly something that will be considered. Councillor Fleury’s office has had many discussions with Senior Staff about how to better prioritize sidewalks near schools, retirement homes and other public facilities into existing operations.


  1. Does the City factor in aging population, specifically high-density areas where seniors live to prioritize winter operations for sidewalks and bus stops?

These are things that could be considered in the review of Maintenance Quality Standards.


  1. Where do funding for winter operations (clearing and removal) come from? Could gas tax revenues be used?

Council has decided that the Gas Tax revenue will fund capital projects related to transit. Funding for winter operations comes entirely from property taxes.


  1. Is the City looking into abrasives alternatives to use of salt (environmental considerations)?

The City does pre-wet our salts with calcium chloride before salting, which reduces the use by 28%. City has tried beet juice, but it was not effective. City uses grit and sand and does consider environmental impacts when salting in wetland or watercourse.


  1. How is the City working with Para Transpo for pick up and drop off issues (ramps)?

Crews work with OC Transpo to determine priorities at regular bus stops. City often works with OC Transpo, and specific with Para Transpo operations, to find areas of priority and for accessibility needs. Priority related to accessibility and Para Transpo operations is something that will need to be considered in the MQS review.


  1. What is the City doing for sidewalks areas where sidewalk machine cannot pass due to hydro pole location?

The City teams are aware of these issues. Staff hand shovels these areas, but it does take longer. Any issues can be reported to 311. During the review, this process would also be considered.


  1. How does City review reclassifications of sidewalks?

MQS dictate how to reclassify sidewalks. Functional classification (when the street is designed), speed, and traffic volume are the three things that are considered when reclassifying. A bus detour/construction would also feed into this reclassification process (ex: LRT rerouting of busses). Sidewalk classifications are not independent of road classifications.


  1. Is the City aware of challenges relating to lifting of blades on sidewalk plow?

When they are dealing with a large volume of snow, they need to use snow blowers first because plows don’t work, then come in after with a plow blade. Snow blowers main function is to widen and leaves a layer of snow. In this situation you would see snow with tire tracks that later get cleared. Timing with the plow on the street and the sidewalks – not triggered at the same time, 2d one will try to clean up the first, can look at this during the review of standards.

Road and sidewalks are triggered at different snow levels. Best efforts to go after the storm to try and tackle these intersections. Timing issues – this can be looked at in the review of sidewalks.


  1. How does the City protect quality control of sidewalk operators?

City has cameras on all City plows, equipped with GPS. City is in the process of equipping contracted snowplows with the same technology.


  1. How can residents report missing links with regards to winter operations?

Specific concerns to Queen Elizabeth adjacent streets. NCC does own these areas, but city maintains them under a maintenance agreement. City cannot use pure salt along those pathways and instead we use salt/grit mix (10% sale 90% grit). If issues that continue are recurring ones, agreements with NCC can be revisited.

Missing links can be reported to 311.


  1. Can a sidewalk in residential area be higher priority than a street within the same area?

Sidewalk classifications are not independent of road classifications. During the review of Maintenance Quality Standards, the differentiation between sidewalk classification and road classification is something will need to be reviewed.


Next Steps

Review of Maintenance Quality Standards – this will be identified as a term of Council priority so that a consultation process can begin.

City staff will be working through the summer and the fall to look at review and operations. Don’t currently have the funds in budget to do the review but will try to get the funds in the 2020 Budget. It’s a significant undertaking. What does it mean to the beats, equipment, resources, on sidewalks and residential roads? These are things that will be considered in the review.

2019 Winter Operations Presentation

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