City's snow budget could finish 2020 with rare surplus

For the first time in almost a decade, the City of Ottawa might finish 2020 with a slight surplus in its snow-clearing budget.

Transportation committee approves 2021 budget with millions in road projects

A plow at work on Carling Avenue in Ottawa in late November 2020. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

For the first time in almost a decade, the City of Ottawa might finish 2020 with a slight surplus in its snow-clearing budget.

The city expected to spend $78 million in 2020, but unless Mother Nature delivers a December wallop in the coming weeks, looks like it will end up about $500,000 in the black. 

The last time the city had a small surplus for winter maintenance was 2011. Since then, it has run deficits including a $23-million overrun in 2013 and $21.1 million last year.

Laila Gibbons, the city's director of roads and parking, credited the $5.6 million top-up council made in 2020 for finally bringing the budget in line with the actual costs of salting and plowing roads and sidewalks.

Gibbons also pointed to changes the department made a year ago that treated winter maintenance differently in suburbs, older urban neighbourhoods and rural areas, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, and gave front-line supervisors more flexibility.

Even bigger changes will come when the city eventually adopts new standards for maintaining roads and sidewalks in winter. Public consultation will be held to determine the details.

$335M for transportation infrastructure

The transportation committee endorsed some $650 million including $335 in capital spending on roads, cycling, traffic and parking in 2021.

Among the big-ticket projects on tap is a $18.9-million widening of Bank Street to four lanes from Leitrim Road to Dun Skipper Drive to cater to the fast-growing Findlay Creek community, a project due to be finished in 2028. There's also $9.7 million to finish widening Strandherd Drive in Barrhaven from Maravista Drive to Jockvale Road.

Planning will also begin to widen the Airport Parkway, a project that has long been on the books but has faced delays.

The city has set aside millions for road projects in 2021. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Many older roads and the aging sewers underneath will be fully rebuilt, including $12 million spent on Byron Avenue between Kirkwood and Churchill avenues, and $12.7 million on Bel-Air Drive.

The city will spend $45 million to resurface and repair dozens more roads across Ottawa.

A few councillors, including Jeff Leiper and Shawn Menard, voted against the road widenings, as they want the city to focus more on active modes of transportation and reducing greenhouse gases.  

In 2021, the City of Ottawa expects to bring in $6 million from the new photo radar pilot that began last July. Money from those tickets will fund a list of projects designed to reduce road fatalities, to be discussed in the spring.

Also in the spring, a new line-painting truck that uses more resilient paint will finally hit the road.

The final transportation budget goes to full council Dec. 9. Public transit falls under transit commission, whose budget was already discussed last month.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now