Most of us think that snow removal is a simple process, but this week it was evident that both human behavior and science played an important role in what many residents are calling poor service in snow removal. In fact, I received many calls from Ward Six residents saying that in all the years of living here they had never experienced such poor service on their streets. Thank you to everyone who contacted me, shared their experiences, and sent photos. I have spent a considerable amount of time speaking with staff and reviewing our standards and procedures. The City of Burlington Service Standards is located on the City’s website; here is the link for your information www.burlington.ca/snow. This will tell you how the roads are prioritized, how the services are implemented, explanation of the service standards, and links to the plowing schedule are all provided in one location. Your concerns followed some main themes and I hope after my explanation you will realize what the conditions were and will understand the reasons for the resulting service.
Roads were not plowed:
What appeared to most of us as poor service was actually a combination of human behavior and extreme cold weather. On the human behaviour side, parked cars played a major role in preventing our plows from doing their job. Please be advised that the City does have a By-law that no parking is allowed on-street during snow events even if you have an exemption or a parking permit. In the future, By-law will be tagging and towing any cars that are parked on the road during snow events. Parked cars will cause delays of the plowing of your street.
In cold temperatures the snow freezes and bonds to the pavement. This is what happened during the latest snow event on local roads. When the snow bonds to the road the result is snow pack condition. This creates a hard surface that you can drive on. With warm temperatures, the snow pack softened leaving the appearance that the road had not been plowed. Primary and secondary roads are treated with salt and the brine that forms from the salt on the road creates a barrier preventing the snow/pavement bonding effect. Who knew that science plays a role in the delivery of snow clearing. Unfortunately, salting causes tremendous environmental damage and is only used on primary and secondary roads when necessary. The city is responsible to have in place a salt management plan to ensure that minimal amounts of salt are used to ensure safe road conditions.
I will be discussing the service level with staff to determine if there are some improvements that can be made, especially around schools and major intersections. We are one of very few Municipalities that provide sidewalk clearing. While it is nice to have, it is a difficult service to implement. Sidewalk clearing is done in the same priority as the roads, after the roadways are plowed. First they clear the sidewalk path, and then they come back and clear the access points. The delay in clearing the access points causes frustration for residents. However, each of the corners/intersections can take 20 minutes to clear, plowing them at the same time as sidewalks paths would cause more delays. Please remember salting and/or sanding is not done by the city on local sidewalks except in very limited circumstances and the residents can assist by sanding or salting.
Damage to Property:
Every year I receive complaints from residents regarding damage to property from the snow plows. Unfortunately, this cannot be helped because it’s impossible for our drivers to know all the features of individual properties under the snow. To report damage, please call Roads, Parks and Forestry at 905-333-6166 or email RPF@burlington.ca . Staff will review the damage in early spring and make repairs as weather permits. Please note that the city will not repair landscape materials on the road allowance including sprinkler systems, as our By-law prohibits landscaping materials on the road allowance. The road allowance includes the area between the sidewalk and the road and also the area between the sidewalk and your property line. Generally no landscaping materials should be placed within 12 inches of the sidewalk. I have one suggestion that will help. You can purchase rods from the local hardware store and place them 12 inches inside of the sidewalk. It is not recommended to place them at the very edge of the sidewalk as this will not allow room for the plow to maneuver through the space. This is a technique that I saw being used in Ottawa this winter.
Many residents seem to expect that our plows should achieve bare pavement on all road surfaces. Unfortunately, this is not a recommended maintenance level for local roads due to traffic volumes and environmental damage. Bare pavement is only achieved roads when salt is used to prevent the snow from bonding to the pavement. In the City of Burlington, salting or brine application occurs on primary and secondary roads.
Transit stops and Mailbox clearing:
The city is not responsible for clearing the path around mailboxes. Burlington Transit bus stops and shelters are cleared by Roads, Parks and Forestry.
Crews do go out and check drains but we ask for help from residents. Anything you can do to help ensure catch basins on the road or in rear yards are clear and that water can flow is extremely helpful. Major pooling of water should be reported at 905-333-6166 or email RPF@burlington.ca.
I hope this helps residents to understand the circumstances surrounding the previous road conditions in our neighborhoods. Please feel free to email me email@example.com or RPF@burlington.ca any of your concerns. During snow events there may be a delay in response times, however please know that staff will be responding to your concerns. Please remember to wait for 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling to report a concern as it can take 24 hours or more to complete the plowing on roads.