Snow removal cleanup to get more city oversight

Montreal is bringing in a coordinated snow removal policy run by the city rather than the boroughs, the first since 2001.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says boroughs could face penalties if snow is not removed quickly enough

The city hopes its new coordinated snow removal plan will mean citizens and drivers will be able to get around easier. (Radio-Canada)

The City of Montreal is going to take on a bigger role in removing snow starting next winter in the hope of improving coordination across the 19 boroughs. 

Mayor Denis Coderre hopes coordinating snow clearing operations directly will reduce disparities from borough to borough.

The policy is the city's response to recommendations from an auditor's report released in January.

At a news conference following the report's release, Coderre admitted there had been a series of failures after a particularly bad ice storm hit Montreal in January. 

The city's handling of the storm led to an influx of more than 3,000 complaints from residents.

New deadlines, penalties

The threshold to begin snow removal -- previously set at 15 centimetres -- will now be between 10 and 15 centimetres, giving a five-centimetre leeway based on the type of precipitation. 

Each borough will be given 12 hours to begin the snow removal once the order is given by the city. They then have 32 hours to complete the removal on main arteries.

Snow must be removed within 96 hours on secondary and local roads when a storm results in 20 centimetres of snow or less.

Coderre said boroughs could face penalties if they don't make the deadline.

"You don't want to be penalized? You just do when you say you'll do it. It's a matter of responsibility," he said Friday.

"We needed to add some teeth to [this policy]."

Impossible to standardize, opposition says

Montreal's official opposition party says the mayor's plan to standardize snow removal operations across the island just won't work.

Councillors from Projet Montréal said at a news conference Friday afternoon that boroughs cannot follow one set of city-wide guidelines because each borough has its own agreements with various snow removal entrepreneurs.

While some boroughs share the workload among blue collar workers and the private sector, others such as Outremont have 100 per cent of their snow removal done by private contractors.

Projet Montreal borough mayor François Croteau said that some borough have agreements with their private contractors to clear snow from sidewalks once there are five centimetres of accumulation. Coderre's plan calls for snow clearing to begin at 2.5 centimetres.​

The city's priorities

  1. Hospital entryways, reserved bus lanes, main arteries, commercial streets. Examples include Sherbrooke and Lacordaire Streets, Marcel-Laurin and Henri-Bourassa Boulevards.
  2. Secondary streets, local commercial streets, bus lanes. Examples include Monkland and Victoria Avenues, Wellington Street.
  3. Local streets, industrial sectors. Examples include: Winchester and Kensington Avenues, Charlevoix Street.   

Snow removal by the numbers

  • 1 city
  • 19 boroughs
  • 28 snow-elimination sites
  • 239 cm of snowfall, on average, per season
  • 3,000 snow-removal workers 
  • 4,100 km of roadway
  • 6,550 km of sidewalks
  • 140,000 tons of abrasives (sand, salt) used
  • 300,000 trips made by trucks transporting snow
  • 1,698,062 citizens
  • 12,000,000 cubic metres of snow transported
  • $155,000,000 annual budget