April 17, 2018

Following the ice storm and the widely fluctuating weather conditions that affected the city of Toronto over this past weekend, crews from Transportation Services are continuing their efforts to address storm impacts with a focus on sidewalk clearing and continued salting of local roads.

City staff extend appreciation to residents and businesses for their patience and support in snow clearing efforts.

While there are fewer snow clearing resources available at this time of year than at the height of the winter season, the City team has been requesting the return of sidewalk plows and salters to service to address sidewalk clearing. Sidewalk plows are not stored in City yards once they are returned to the contractors and in many instances are stored outside of the city limits. Staff began working with contractors in advance of the storm to address this as quickly and responsively as possible.

Starting this afternoon and into tomorrow, there will be 88 sidewalk clearing machines dedicated to completing this work in the following areas:

  • Etobicoke York: 30 sidewalk plows will be in service tomorrow by 7 a.m.
  • North York: 35 sidewalk plows are currently being brought online: 10 machines went into operation this afternoon at 2 p.m. and an additional 25 will start at 3 a.m. tomorrow morning
  • Scarborough:  23 sidewalk plows (including 7 reallocated from the Toronto/East York district) will be brought into service as of 3 a.m. tomorrow morning.
  • Toronto East York: Had retained seven sidewalk plows (fitted with brooms) from their winter contracts to assist with spring cleanup. These have been in use since Saturday to address high pedestrian volume areas, bus stops and crosswalks. Once this work was completed, these plows were relocated to Scarborough to support sidewalk clearing efforts in that area.

There continue to be 80 salt trucks (a combination of in-house and contracted vehicles) that are available and being utilized to ensure ongoing salting where needed. Approximately 30 of these vehicles are also equipped with plows for snow removal.

Associated contracts have been extended until April 19. 

Over the course of the unusual weather system this past weekend, crews tackled the storm through a priority sequence for service: expressways, arterials, some bridges, steep hills and bike lanes and consistent with our service levels for snow and ice events.

There are no significant reports of flooding, which is largely due to the strategic approach that crews followed over the course of the weekend to keep catch basins clear of snow and ice.

In addition, as of this morning, Transportation crews have cleared a total of 5,482 catch basins since the storm occurred.

Background Information

The 2015 to 2022 winter depot contracts, which run from October 15 to April 15, include an extra week at either end of the winter season over the previous contract (2008-2014). As a result, current winter depot contracts start one week earlier and end one week later. This change was incorporated into contracts in response to climate change.

In a typical year, by April 1 ground conditions are warming and the air temperatures are generally above freezing. At that point in the season, all contracted plows (including all sidewalk plows) and half of the contracted salt trucks are usually no longer in service.

Depending on conditions, from early to mid-April, the remaining salt trucks are generally no longer required and are removed from service.

This year, due to the forecast, contractors were asked to hold back any vehicles that had not been removed to facilitate effective response to this event.

Council-approved Winter Level of Service (LOS)

Roadway Plowing               Sidewalk Salting & Plowing Seniors Driveway Opening                     
Expressways ≥ 2.5 cm High pedestrian volume – Dec. to Mar. ≥ 2 cms Expressways N/A
Reds (arterials) ≥ 5 cm Low pedestrian volume – Dec. to Mar. ≥ 8 cms Reds (arterials) ≥ 5 cm
Blues (collectors) ≥ 5-8 cm Blues (collectors) ≥ 5 cm
Green (locals) ≥ 8 cm Green (locals) ≥ 8 cm


Findings from June 2013 road climatology study:

  • Based on a 2cm snowfall, the average last day of typical winter season is approximately March 25 to 29
  • Only 1.3% to 1.6% of days in a calendar year will include freezing rain (freezing rain is most common in January)
  • Decreasing trend for freezing rain from 1987 to 2013
  • 1987 to 2013 – four freezing rain events recorded at Pearson during April 8 to 14
  • No freezing rain events recorded at Pearson post April 14.


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