When will your street be cleared? How Ottawa prioritizes snow plowing needs


Now that it seems winter weather is setting in, and Ottawans are scrambling to get their snow tires on, the City’s road maintenance team will be monitoring road conditions constantly for snow and ice accumulation. It’s a big job. The City of Ottawa has more than 12,000 lane kilometres of roads and 2,300 kilometres of sidewalks and pathways. It’s even bigger when you consider:

  • Sometimes it snows in one part of town and rains in another.
  • Sometimes it snows and then rains before we get a chance to clear all the snow.
  • Sometimes it goes back and forth between snow and rain for hours, or days.

The City’s number one priority is to keep Ottawa’s roads, sidewalks, winter cycling network and pathways safe and clear for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. That might mean plowing, spreading sand, spreading salt or some combination of all that.

It all needs to be done, but it can’t all be done at once. So, if you’re looking out the window this winter wondering where road maintenance teams are, this is how the City prioritises.

First level

The City says, the “first step is to keep the City’s major roads clear. At the first sign of any accumulation, we respond to Highway 174 and the Transitway, and we keep responding until accumulation stops. This helps ensure the morning and afternoon commutes go as safely and efficiently as possible.”

Second level – 2.5 centimetres

“Once we determine that 2.5 centimetres of snow has fallen, we start work on high volume roads, such as the downtown core, busy sidewalks and the cycling network. These avenues typically have the highest volume of traffic. Keeping them clear helps ensure the morning and afternoon commutes go as safely and efficiently as possible.”

Maintaining sidewalks and pathways is part of the City’s commitment to supporting viable active transportation options year-round. Only a portion of the cycling network is winter-maintained, though, and you can visit the Winter Cycling Network for details.

“Our goal is to clear the downtown roads and cycling network within four hours of the last snowflake having fallen.”

Third level – five centimetres

“Once we determine that five centimetres of snow has fallen, we respond to Class 4 and Class 5 roads – the major and minor collector roads that link neighbourhoods. In the days before amalgamation, many of these were known as regional roads. Major collectors are roads like Carling Avenue, Carp Road and Innes Road. Minor collectors are roads like Sherway Drive, Duford Drive or Castlefrank Road,” says the City.

“We also begin clearing more sidewalks, roads with OC Transpo service and roads that lead to schools and long-term care homes. This helps children on school buses and patients in emergency vehicles get where they need to go.”

The City says the main goal is to clear the roads within six hours of the last snowflake having fallen, and to clear sidewalks within 16 hours.

Fourth level – Seven centimetres or more

If seven centimetres or more of snow has fallen, the plowing service expands to include roads in area that are primarily residential, where you or someone you know probably live. “Roads in residential areas are typically the last roads we plow, after the first three levels have been addressed,” the City says.

“Our goal is to clear all these roads within 10 hours of the last snowflake having fallen.”

For more detail on all these standards, you can read a thorough report about them. The City is currently reviewing these standards and in early 2021 you’ll have an opportunity to have your say on updated standards through Engage.Ottawa.

SOURCE City of Ottawa

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