Montreal

Heated sidewalks discussed in Côte Saint-Luc as price of salt increases

Côte Saint-Luc is bracing for its winter salt bill to jump $100,000 and that’s raising questions as to whether it’s time for the city to invest in heated sidewalks.

City expects to pay $600K for salt this winter, up from $500K last winter

Côte Saint-Luc city councillor Ruth Kovac thinks that the cost of heated sidewalks are worth the investment in the long run. (Antoni Nerestant/CBC)

Côte Saint-Luc is bracing for its winter salt bill to jump $100,000, and that's raising questions as to whether it's time for the city to invest in heated sidewalks.

During the last council meeting, the city adopted a motion to re-examine the issue of heated sidewalks some time in the future.

City councillor Ruth Kovac said installing heated sidewalks would help the elderly and young families in the area who struggle in slippery conditions.

Salting in winter usually costs the city $500,000, but this year it expects to pay $600,000.

The price of salt has gone up, at least partly because of a strike at the world's largest salt mine in Goderich, Ont., last summer.

Work stopped for 12 weeks, so the supply dropped and prices went up.

Installing heated sidewalks, however, would cost millions of dollars.

"Everything's expensive," Kovac said. "So you start off with the expense and it's amortized over a number of years."

She said less salt and sand on the streets will also mean less corrosion and clogged sewers that need to be cleared out, which would save the city money.

Technology still too unreliable?

Côte Saint-Luc has experimented with heated sidewalks in the past few years, but some say the technology needs to evolve before it can be taken seriously.

City councillor Steven Erdelyi thinks heated sidewalks are a great idea, but not cost-effective.

He said the city installed geothermal rods behind city hall in 2011, which drew heat up to melt ice and snow on the surface of the sidewalk.

While it worked in light conditions, it didn't during more severe winter weather.

"We're looking into options, but the thinking is that it doesn't make sense yet," Erdelyi said.

Kovac said heating sidewalks has been done effectively in areas of Europe, and even in the city of Holland, Mich., where heated sidewalks were installed in 1988. That city now boasts about eight kilometres of heated sidewalks and parking lots.

"I like to think that we do things with long-term strategic thinking and that we do [them] with our residents in mind," Kovac said of Côte Saint-Luc.

Montreal debated installing heated sidewalks on Ste-Catherine Street, but decided the technology was still too new to warrant the leap of faith.

"I don't think we can go for 2.2 kilometres [of] innovation," said Luc Ferrandez, the executive committee member in charge of big projects, in January.

With files from Antoni Nerestant

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