November 23, 2016
With winter just around the corner, the City of Toronto is gearing up to deal with the impacts of winter – both on city streets and beneath them. The work includes managing snow and ice on city streets, and responding to the effects of cold weather on the City's watermains and water service pipes.
Cold weather and rapid swings between thaw and freezing temperatures can cause an increase in watermain breaks. Toronto Water staff are ready to respond to service calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The City is also offering tips to help residents prevent their pipes from freezing.
"We never know exactly what winter holds for us, but we're prepared with a comprehensive plan to tackle the challenges. Toronto Water crews are ready to respond, and we have a number of contingency contracts in place in case we need extra support," said Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25 Don Valley West), Chair of the City's Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. "And, as always, we have a full complement of winter operations equipment including about 600 snow plows, 300 sidewalk plows and 200 salt trucks to help keep the roads and sidewalks safe and passable during the winter season."
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 those roads between 14 and 16 hours after the storm ends.
As soon as the snow begins to fall, Transportation Services sends its fleet of salt trucks to the expressways and main roads. Local roads and laneways are salted soon after the main roads. When two centimetres of snow has accumulated, plowing begins on the expressways and, when five centimetres has accumulated, plowing begins on the main roads. Plowing on the expressways and main roads continues until the operation is complete.
This winter, the City has also identified a priority network of bike lanes and cycle tracks in the downtown core that will continue to receive enhanced winter maintenance, including snow plowing and salting to improve safety for cyclists.
Local road plowing begins when the snow stops falling and if the snow accumulation reaches at least eight centimetres. 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 only to report urgent winter-related calls in addition to other matters apart from storm response.
Residents can help out this winter by doing a few things to assist with the City's snow-clearing efforts, including not pushing snow back onto the road, avoiding parking on city streets to help the plows do their work and taking public transit.
The City will only open/clear driveway windrows where it is mechanically possible to do so after eight centimetres of snow have fallen. Typically, driveway windrows are opened between one and two hours after 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. This program does not take place in the central core of the city due to narrow road widths and on-street parking.
The City will clear snow from sidewalks on roads with high pedestrian traffic and on bus routes where it is mechanically possible to do so after two centimetres of snow have fallen, and the remaining roads after eight centimetres have fallen. In the central core of the city, property owners are required to clear their sidewalks of snow within 12 hours after a storm.
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 59 years of age. To address this issue, the City of Toronto has committed $1.76 billion over the next 10 years to upgrade its watermain distribution system. More information can be found at www.toronto.ca/watermains.
Cold weather can also cause pipes inside the home and on private property to freeze. Residents are reminded to prepare their pipes for winter by wrapping foam pipe insulation around pipes most prone to freezing, especially near outside walls and in crawl spaces, attics and garages. It is also important to seal air leaks around windows and doors, and to disconnect hoses and drain the outdoor water supply. More frozen pipe prevention tips can be found at http://www.toronto.ca/frozenpipes.
Toronto is Canada's largest city, the fourth largest in North America, and home to a diverse population of about 2.8 million people. It is a global centre for business, finance, arts and culture and is consistently ranked one of the world's most livable cities. For information on non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can visit http://www.toronto.ca
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