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City snow-clearing efforts progressing unchanged from last year

The City of Greater Sudbury hosted a media availability on Thursday to remind residents of their snow-clearing policies and procedures as the region eases into winter conditions

With snow making its annual return to the region, the City of Greater Sudbury hosted a media availability on Thursday to highlight its snow-clearing policies and procedures. 

The city’s snow-clearing efforts remain unchanged from last year, and the city’s acting director of lineal infrastructure services Brittany Hallam affirmed that they’re ready for the season.

“City crews and contractors work around the clock to maintain the 3,600 lane-kilometres of road, 350 kilometres of maintained sidewalk and 500 bus stops throughout the winter,” she said, adding that roads are categorized in a priority order of one to six based on the speed limit and road traffic volume. 

Highways and major arterials would rank among the top three, which she said means they’re maintained with plowing, sanding and salting to bare pavement. Plowing for these roads commences at approximately five centimetres of snow accumulation.

Other roads fill out the ranks and are maintained to a snowpacked and sanded status, with plowing commencing at eight centimetres of snow accumulation.

Slippery conditions are reviewed continually via weather stations as well as physical observations and measurements of pavement temperature. Salt and sand are on hand in the event they’re needed.

The city’s standard is to have all city roads and sidewalks cleared within 24 hours of a snow event ending.

“That is our standard unless a significant event pushed us outside of the standard,” Hallam said

Last year’s change in the Municipal Act allows the city to suspend standard timelines in the event of significant weather events. After the event is declared over, normal timelines prevail. 

Despite this, Hallam said that a crew of city staff and contractors deploy more than 50 pieces of equipment in a general rollout to clear snow as quickly as possible, with the vast majority of cases finding all city streets and sidewalks cleared within their 24-hour mandate.

The city’s sidewalk-clearing efforts typically gain a great deal of attention each year, with a grassroots group, Greater Sudbury Safer Sidewalks, continually advocating for the city to do more to keep the sidewalks clear and safe for pedestrians. 

The city currently keeps 350 kilometres of its 440-kilometre sidewalk network maintained throughout the winter, Hallam said.

“Every year it is reviewed to look at the locations … based on accessibility and active transportation, so connectivity to important locations, ability to get from one place to another and bus stops.”

Again aiding in this year’s efforts is the continuation of last season’s mechanical icebreaker pilot project, which has been extended for an extra season to help measure the full impact of the attachment of rolling metal teeth to the front end of one of their sidewalk plows. 

“We do encounter some challenging conditions on the sidewalks as well as the roads in freeze-thaw conditions, which is occurring more and more in the last couple of years, as that snowpack on sidewalk melts and freezes again it causes an uneven walking surface, which is challenging for pedestrians,” Hallam said. 

The mechanical icebreaker breaks up ice and snowpack as it makes its way down sidewalks, with a second sidewalk plow following to clear the snow and ice it leaves behind.

One mechanical icebreaker attachment has been purchased thus far, with the pilot intended to help determine whether more should be purchased. The city’s total sidewalk-clearing fleet is comprised of 22 sidewalk plows. 

With winter conditions bringing immediate impacts to area residents, city communications advisor Kelly Brooks said public feedback is important.

New this snow-removal season is the 311 portal, which accompanies the existing 311 customer service phone number and online live chat. The online portal allows people to report winter maintenance issues online at any time. The live chat and phone number is available from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for