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.
“The winter season always means challenges, but we have a comprehensive plan in place to manage whatever winter may bring. 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. "In addition, the City has 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.
After clearing ice and snow from some bike lanes as part of a pilot project for the past three years, the City has identified a priority network of bike lanes and cycle tracks in the downtown core that will receive enhanced winter maintenance this winter, including snow plowing and salting to improve safety for cyclists.
Local road plowing begins when the snow stops 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 a 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 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. 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 has taken place.
You can learn more about sidewalk snow-clearing in Toronto and view a map of the areas where the service is provided at 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 59 years of age. In 2015, Toronto Water will spend approximately $146 million to improve the watermain distribution system. Each year, the City replaces approximately 35 to 50 kilometres of watermain pipes and rehabilitates more than 130 km to help extend the life of its watermains. More information is available at http://www.toronto.ca/watermains.
Last winter’s extreme cold temperatures caused residential water service pipes to freeze both inside the home and outside on private property. 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 information is available at http://www.toronto.ca/frozenpipes.
More information about watermain breaks and how residents can prepare their pipes for winter is available at: http://ow.ly/UYBUc