Snow & The City

Some of the City’s most important but most under appreciated work is in infrastructure construction and maintenance – roads, sidewalks, bridges, and sewer lines. This everyday work of maintaining roads and sidewalks for us to move around the city becomes especially important in the wintertime. We live in a Winter City, and, love it or hate it, dealing with snow is a big part of being an Edmontonian. The City of Edmonton even has a snow and ice control policy to set clear standards for snow and ice control. Every time it snows, residents are expected to make sure their sidewalks are clear, and a whole network of plows, graders, and sanders hit the city streets.

City Administration recently printed a pamphlet called “Snow in the City” to explain how snow removal works in Edmonton. If no snow, or very little snow has fallen, the City continues with regular winter maintenance work. Once 3 centimetres of snow has fallen, and the forecast calls for more snow, plowing begins on main roads. More than 10 centimetres of snow means that a Major Plowing Event is declared for all major roads and bus routes. All city equipment is deployed and contract equipment may even be called in to clear all the snow. More than 30 centimetres of snow is considered a Severe Snowfall Event, and all available resources are deployed to keep roads clear and traffic moving.

Roads with the highest traffic volume are always cleared first. That means that freeways, arterial roads and business districts are cleared first, followed by collector roads, bus routes and transit access roads. Local industrial roadways are cleared next, and finally, residential streets and alleys are bladed to level snowpack. Bike lanes are cleared at the same time as the street. Sanding and salting is done as necessary to maintain good traction.

Year to year our snowfall differs, but having such a clear system for snow removal makes it possible to budget accordingly. It also means that if it snows a lot, and often, resources will be directed from other areas of the budget to keep traffic moving. In the opposite situation, like 2016, less than normal snowfall will means a budget surplus that can be used elsewhere.

To keep people informed about plowing during snowfall events, the City updates the Major Roads Plowing Map, but they also maintain a Residential Snow Clearing Map. Like garbage collection, neighbourhood blading operates on a weekly schedule throughout the winter. After heavy snows, residential neighbourhoods are bladed to a 5 centimetre snow pack throughout the winter. This ensures that neighbourhood streets are safe to drive on, no matter how much snow we get.

Where does all the snow go? The last step after clearing all this snow is to take it to municipal snow storage facilities. Open after the first major snowfall, these facilities ensure that any contaminants in the melting snow do not end up in the groundwater system. None of these snow storage facilities are in Ward 5, but you may have seen them while traveling Anthony Henday Drive. By the end of the winter, the snow is piled pretty high!

Although the City is responsible for clearing roads and public sidewalks, we all have to do our part. Everyone is expected to clear the snow in front of their home, and keep the walkway free of ice. The City provides sand to all Edmontonians for this purpose. To recognize those who keep their walks clear of snow and ice and lend a hand to neighbours who need it, the City has recently expanded the Snow Angels program. You might consider recognizing someone who is a snow angel in your community by contacting your community league. Finally, we all need to make sure to obey seasonal parking bans and drive safely for the conditions to keep traffic moving and make way for snow plows and sanding equipment. 

Living in a winter city is a lot of fun and we are lucky to be able to enjoy outdoor activities like ice skating, snowshoeing, and skiing within city limits. But it also means that we all have to do our part to keep streets and sidewalks safe and clear of snow and ice for everyone.

One thought on “Snow & The City

  1. Miranda,

    We are inundated by the city with the by-line that Edmonton is a “Winter City, yet recent development does not appear to take that into consideration.

    Take the new development in the Hamptons – Narrow lots on narrow winding streets with parking on both sides. There is no place for the snow!

    Neighbourhoods like this are difficult to navigate in the summer, without snow!!

    They become almost impassible in winter.

    The city has embarked on a huge program to benefit cyclists with new permanent cycle routes – that will be significantly underutilized for most of the year.

    What is your position on future development taking consideration for the fact that Edmonton is a “Winter City”?

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