City spending $500K more to snowplow until roads are bare

Road crews have a new snow-plowing mandate this winter: Get out there sooner; get rid of more snow and be nicer to the public, as councillors push for improvements to system that created too many headaches last year.
The right image shows the city's new standard when it comes to snow removal. (City of Hamilton)

City road crews have a new mandate this winter: plow until the roads are bare pavement.

The previous standard for residential roads was to plow until drivers were able to drive on hard snow pack. This year, the city is spending about half a million extra to plow until drivers can see the road.

(We’ll know) with the first one or two snowfalls as to whether we’re prepared for what’s to come.- Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins

The change comes after a taxing blizzard last Boxing Day, when some side streets weren’t plowed for days. What's important, councillors said during Monday's public works committee, is that last year's snowplowing debacle doesn't happen again.

Last year's Boxing Day storm "was a huge issue for a number of us last year," said Coun. Chad Collins of Ward 5.

“There’s an expectation in the community that when it snows, and it snows hard, that the city’s going to be there to clear it as quick as possible.”

The money will pay for extra workers, equipment and material to meet the bare pavement goal, said Bryan Shynal, the city’s director of operations.

Old standard

Bare pavement was actually the standard for parts of Hamilton before amalgamation, Collins said. For some, this is a return to the service they had in the 1990s.

The city told its snow-clearing contractors about the new standard at an orientation meeting in early October. It has also made other snow-clearing changes that residents might notice.

Last year, crews would start plowing when there was 10 centimetres of snow. The new standard is eight centimetres.

Other changes made after last year’s Boxing Day storm:

  • The city has a new system to make sure that all supervisors aren’t off at once. During last year’s blizzard, Collins said, four supervisors were on vacation.
  • During October’s orientation session, the city emphasized that drivers should be polite and courteous. Last year, said Coun. Sam Merulla, residents complained about rude drivers.
  • The city will launch an awareness campaign encouraging residents to keep sidewalks clean. Its website will include a snow route map and event response status reports.

One contractor lost a partial contract because of last year's storm, said Bob Paul, acting manager of winter control. The city uses about 75 contractors. 

As a result of last year's lessons, "we'll be acting earlier, plowing more often, and we'll have better use of material application," he said.

Time will tell if the improvements are enough to handle another Boxing Day storm, Collins said.

“(We’ll know) with the first one or two snowfalls as to whether we’re prepared for what’s to come.” 

The city's winter control budget for 2013 is $21,578,760.


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