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No snow yet, but Toronto is prepping its ‘winter weather readiness plan’ for snowy streets

Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie and city staff held a press conference on the city’s plan to clear snow from streets, sidewalks and bike lanes.
Oct. 17, 2023
Asma Sahebzada and Andy Takagi

The City of Toronto is already gearing up to tackle this year’s snowy streets.

Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie and Barbara Gray, the general manager of the city’s transportation services, presented the city’s “winter weather readiness plan” on Monday to clear snow and ice from the roads, sidewalks and bike lanes in the upcoming months.

A large bustling city like Toronto requires immediate action when there’s a snowfall. Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie said the city has more than 1,400 pieces of snow equipment ready to combat the snow.

As winter approaches, to prepare for potential extreme winter weather, city staff are watching weather forecast predictions and are maintaining streets before the snowfall hits.

“This preparation includes street sweeping, road resurfacing projects, vehicle and equipment maintenance, replenishing salt supplies and my favourite, filling potholes,” she said.

McKelvie added that the city has filled more than 167,000 potholes just this year.

A part of this maintenance includes monitoring water mains and pipes under ground that have the tendency to break with frigid temperatures.

“The city is spending more than $188 million a year to improve the water main distribution system,” McKelvie said. “This includes replacement of approximately 30 to 40 kilometres of water mains and rehabilitation and relining of more than 100 kilometres of water mains each year.”

She also said a total of 14,700 kilometres of roads, 7,900 kilometres of sidewalks and 956 kilometres of bikeways are cleared of snow and ice for every snowfall in Toronto.

The city’s priority is to keep Torontonians safe in case of extreme winter conditions.

“This is challenging for everyone, but we have learned a great deal from past storms and we are prepared for whatever this winter will bring,” McKelvie said.

The city was pummelled by storms last year, causing commuter chaos on slick roads and breaking records for snowfall.

Winter weather has caused trouble for the city before.
Last winter, some snowplow operators across the GTA quit their jobs after facing harassment from residents who were left unsatisfied with snow removal following a spate of snow storms in February and March.

Some residents in Mississauga had used shovels to break the lights and mirrors off of plow trucks, according to city staff.

Busy sidewalks, including one near North York General Hospital, had snow piled up on the sidewalk following the 20 centimetre snow storm in March. Torontonians took to social media to voice their frustration with the city’s slow snow removal efforts. It took three days for the city to open its hotline for snow removal requests.

The city received more than 2,500 complaints and service requests related to snow clearing following a snow storm in Feb. 2023.

An unprecedented snow storm in the winter of 2021-22 that saw 55 centimetres of snow led to a city staff report calling for an extreme winter weather plan. The snow storm closed schools, stranded vehicles in the middle of the road and left roads and sidewalks impassable for days. The cleanup cost the city $17 million.

In 2021, under former mayor John Tory, the city awarded $1.4 billion in snow-clearing contracts, mainly to two companies. Those contracts will continue to influence the city’s snowplowing efforts until at least 2028, according to the CBC.

Rival companies that had bid for the lucrative contracts took issue with the contract proposal process, claiming it lacked transparency and fairness.