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Toronto unveils $85M snow & ice removal plan

Snowplows, sidewalk plows and salt trucks at an Eastern Avenue city works yard on Nov. 20, 2014. 680NEWS/Kevin Misener

With the first snow storm already in the books, the City of Toronto unveiled its $85-million plan Thursday on how it will battle winter weather in the coming months.

Once again this year, 600 snowplows, 300 sidewalk plows and 200 salt trucks will be part of the city’s snow-clearing arsenal.

Officials held a news conference outside a city works yard on Eastern Avenue, near Lake Shore Boulevard East and the Don Valley Parkway, on Thursday morning.

Steve Buckley, general manager of Transportation Services, said this year’s budget for salt is $11 million.

Messy commute after Wednesday’s snowfall

The 2015 snow clearing budget runs from January to December, with 50 per cent of the money spent on road plowing, 30 per cent on road salting and 20 per cent to clear sidewalks and bus stops. The current budget covers until Dec. 31.

Buckley also explained why Wednesday evening’s light snowfall caused misery on the roads for drivers.

“The issue yesterday, quite frankly, is just a snow storm during rush hour always creates problems,” Buckley said.

“It does two things: one, people are driving in conditions and visibility is hard, but secondly, all of our equipment is also stuck is many of that same sort of traffic.”

Officials said salt trucks were out ahead of and during the snow storm on Wednesday, but Buckley said snowplows are not deployed until five centimetres of snow has accumulated on the ground.

Public Works chair Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said the snowfall’s timing complicated issues on the roadways, and shares Torontonians’ pain.

“I was caught in that rush hour at that time. It took me longer to get home as well, and one of the reasons I think it all took us longer to get home was because the snow was actually falling during the rush hour, and that made it even more difficult,” the councillor said.

Drivers in the GTA, including Toronto, had to cope with icy and snowy roads during their commute home on Wednesday evening after the region was hit by the first snowfall of the pre-winter season.

Flurries began around noon but intensified around 5 p.m., causing heavy traffic on the major roadways. By midnight on Thursday, four centimetres of snow fell at Pearson Airport.

City’s snow-clearing & winter preparedness plan

The city said salt trucks will be first treat the expressways and main roads, followed by local roads and laneways.

Snowplows will only head out to expressways after 2.5 centimetres of snow has accumulated on the ground, while plowing on main roads will only occur after five centimetres of snow.

However, plowing on local roads won’t start until the snow stops or hits eight centimetres.

Officials said their main priority is to ensure main roads are clear for emergency and TTC vehicles. After that, crews will tackle local roads and plan to finish clearing them around 14 to 16 hours after the storm ends.

During a snow storm, residents are also being asked not to call 311 to ask when their street will be plowed as city staff focus on snow-clearing.

Homeowners are also reminded it is their responsibility to clear their sidewalks of snow after a storm. However, the city will clear snow from sidewalks on local roads after after eight centimetres of snow, or five centimetres in January and February.

Seniors and disabled residents who live in older parts of the city, where snowplows are not able to clear narrow sidewalks, are being asked to call 311 to register for the city’s help. However, it does not apply to driveways or walkways approaching the home.

City crews will also be ready to tackle watermain breaks, which are prone during cold weather and swings in freeze-thaw cycles, putting the aging water pipes under stress.

The city has invested $110 million to fix watermains across the city, and plans to replace around 40 to 60 kilometres of watermain pipes each year.

Winter officially arrives at 6:03 p.m. on Dec. 21.