After one of the most challenging winters in recent memory last winter, the City of Toronto is getting ready to once again deal with snow and ice on city streets.
The infrastructure beneath the streets also feels the chill. Cold weather and rapid swings between thaw and freezing temperatures put water pipes under stress. Crews are ready to respond to watermain breaks 24/7, 365 days a year. The City is also offering tips to residents to prepare the pipes in their home for winter’s onslaught.
“Last year was a very difficult winter, with significantly colder weather and a large amount of snow,” said Mayor Rob Ford. “But with our crews and staff, we were able to handle what winter threw at us. Again this year, we are confident that our fleet of equipment – 600 snow plows, 300 sidewalk plows and 200 salt trucks – will keep the roads and sidewalks safe and passable during winter for the travelling public.”
The City’s first priority during a snowfall is to keep the main roads clear for emergency and TTC vehicles. After that, crews move on to the local roads and usually complete clearing these roads between 14 and 16 hours after the storm ends.
As soon as the snow begins, Transportation Services sends out its fleet of salt trucks to the expressways and main roads. Local roads and laneways are salted soon after this. When 2.5 centimetres of snow has accumulated, plowing will begin on the expressways and, when five centimetres has accumulated, plowing will begin on the main roads. Plowing on the expressways and main roads will continue until the operation is complete.
When the snow stops and if the snow accumulation reaches eight centimetres, local road plowing will begin. During this time, as staff focus on planned snow clearing routes, snow service requests will not be taken by 311. Residents are also asked not to call 311 during the storm to ask when their street will be plowed. Residents should call 311 to report urgent winter related calls only.
“Residents can play a role in assisting our snow clearing efforts,” said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34 Don Valley East), Chair of the City’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. “By doing a few simple things such as not pushing snow back onto the road, avoiding parking on city streets to help the plows do their work, and taking public transit can go a long way to helping our staff do their work during winter storms.”
The City will only open driveway windrows wherever it is mechanically possible to do so after eight centimetres of snow has fallen. Typically, driveway windrows are opened between one and two hours of the road being plowed. The service is meant to only open up a width of about three metres – not the full width of the driveway.
The City will clear snow from sidewalks on local roads where it is mechanically possible to do so after eight centimetres (five centimetres in January and February) of snow has fallen. In the central core of the city, property owners are required to clear their sidewalks of snow 12 hours after a storm has taken place. To learn more about sidewalk snow clearing in Toronto and to view a map of the areas where the service is provided, click on http://www.toronto.ca/transportation/snow/sidewalks.
More information about the City of Toronto’s snow clearing operations is available at http://www.toronto.ca/transportation/.
Cold weather is a major cause of watermain breaks but it is not the only one. The City is dealing with aging infrastructure with the average watermain 55 years of age. Toronto is currently spending $110 million to improve the watermain distribution system. This includes replacing approximately 40 to 60 kilometres of watermain pipes per year and continuing three rehabilitation programs: cathodic protection, cleaning and cement mortar lining, and structural lining. More information is available at http://www.toronto.ca/watermains.
Last winter’s extremely cold temperatures also caused an increase in frozen residential drinking water pipes. Residents are reminded to prepare their pipes for winter by insulating the pipes most susceptible to freezing with foam pipe covers available at building supply or home improvement stores. This includes pipes near outside walls and in crawl spaces, the attic and garage, and outdoor pipes that may be exposed. Commercial customers should also wrap all exposed fire lines. More information is available at http://www.toronto.ca/frozenpipes.