There are two major services provided by the City of Burlington as part of winter control operations.  These services are snow clearing from roads and snow clearing from sidewalks.

City Roads

Snow clearing from City roadways involves sanding and salting, and snow plowing.  Of these, sanding and salting consume the majority of the City’s winter control budget.

Before a Winter Event

Before a snow and/or ice event, a specialized truck is used to apply a layer of brine to selected roadways.  Brine is a salt water solution that is effective at temperatures above -21 degrees C.  The brine causes some initial melting of the snow and ice and prevents the snow and ice from bonding to the road’s surface, thus making snow plowing easier and more efficient. This activity may take place from several days to several hours before the start of the event, depending on weather conditions. 

During a Winter Event

When it first starts to snow, salting and sanding trucks are the first to be dispatched.  Roads receive salting and/or sanding in a priority order, with primary roads (i.e. arterials) being completed first followed by secondary roads (i.e. collectors).

When the snow accumulation on primary and secondary roads reaches 50 mm or 2”, snowplows are dispatched to the roads in a priority order similar to that of the salting and sanding trucks.  When plowing on these roadways has been completed and if continued snow accumulation reaches 75 mm or 3”, snowplows are dispatched to the residential streets.

The City of Burlington aims to have all roads in the City plowed within 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling.

It is important to note that residential streets are only plowed after the main roadways have been cleared.  During severe and continuous snowfalls, it is sometimes necessary for snowplows to be redeployed back to the main roadways in order to keep them clear of snow.  In these situations, residential roads will take longer to complete.

The City’s first priority is keeping main roads clear.  Please be patient. City crews will get to residential streets as soon as possible.  Please wait 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling before calling to let us know if your street has not been plowed.

Understanding Salt Management and Service Levels

City roads are maintained at one of two different road conditions, either bare pavement or snow packed.  To better understand why there are two different road conditions, it is important to understand the effect road salt has on the level of service at which a road can be maintained.  Primary and secondary roads receive salting and sanding, as well as snow plowing.  The combination of road salt and plowing allows these roads to be maintained at a bare pavement level.  Residential streets do not receive road salt and are maintained at a snow packed level.

Snow packed means that the snow is compacted to the road’s surface by vehicular traffic and plowing.  Without salt, these roads will not have bare pavement until the snow melts.  It is important to remember that as a snow packed street melts, the snow surface will break apart into smaller sections.  In extreme conditions, these roads are re-plowed, however the majority of the time, they are left to naturally melt away.

In 2003, the City of Burlington adopted a Salt Management Plan that was developed in collaboration with the Region of Halton and area municipalities.  The Plan was initiated in response to numerous studies regarding the environmental impacts of road salt and designed to reduce salt usage on City roadways during winter control operations.  The City uses computer controlled spreading equipment, with application rates based on temperature, type of snow or ice, and traffic volume, to reduce overall salt usage.

Although it has not been proven that road salt is harmful to humans, Environment Canada has classified road salt as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.  This toxic designation means that road salt is harmful to the environment when used in excessive amounts.  Environment Canada has not banned the use of road salt.

City Sidewalks

The City of Burlington is responsible for clearing snow from all sidewalks.  Plowing begins when snow accumulation reaches 50 mm or 2”.  Sidewalks are also plowed in a priority order, with primary and secondary sidewalks plowed first followed by residential sidewalks.

The time it takes to complete sidewalk plowing varies depending on the amount of snow accumulation.  For snowfalls with total accumulation of less than 125 mm or 5”, the targeted time for completion of sidewalk plowing is 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling. 

For snowfalls with total accumulation between 125 mm or 5” and 300 mm or 12”, the targeted time for completion varies depending on road priority classification:

  • Primary sidewalks – 18 hours after the snow has stopped falling,
  • Secondary sidewalks – 36 hours after the snow has stopped falling,
  • Residential sidewalks – 72 hours after the snow has stopped falling.

For snowfalls with total accumulation of greater than 300 mm or 12”, plowing of sidewalks will be completed as soon as possible.

All decorative items that abut sidewalks and curbs should be placed flush with the ground and a minimum of 300 mm or 12" away from the edge of the curb or sidewalk.  This will help reduce the chance of damage to property or snow removal equipment, and injury to operators.  The City is not responsible for damage to decorative items located within the road allowance.

Salting and/or sanding are performed only on sidewalks on primary and secondary roads, when extremely slippery conditions exist.

City Multi-Use Pathways

The City provides limited snow plowing to the Centennial and Beachway multi-use pathways and the paved multi-use pathways located within the hydro right of way corridors. As approved by council in 2011, the winter level of service for these pathways is as follows:

  • Snow plowing and salting/sanding to be performed following other winter control priorities using City of Burlington staff during regular working hours,
  • Existing sidewalk equipment to be utilized.
  • Salting and/or sanding is performed when extremely slippery conditions exist.

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