Snowplowing FAQs

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Please review the following commonly asked questions regarding snowplowing.

How does the City determine which roads are plowed first?

The City has 29 snowplows of varying types to clear nearly 1,800 kilometres of lanes of roadway.

Here are the road plowing priorities and standards during normal winter conditions:

  • Arterial: For major and collector roads and major rural roads, the centre of road will be essentially clear as soon as possible after snowfall ends and, normally, within four hours. The Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area falls within this top priority.
  • Collector and transit routes: For secondary collector roads and transit routes, the centre of road will be essentially clear as soon as possible after snowfall ends and, normally, within six hours.
  • Residential: Local residential, commercial areas and minor hard-surfaced rural roads will be essentially cleared as soon as possible after snowfall ends and, normally, within 16 hours.

My residential street still has not been plowed. Why is it taking so long?

When snow continues to fall over a long period, plows may not be able to immediately clear local residential and less-travelled roads as they must continue working to ensure major roads and transit routes are clear.

Sidewalks in my neighbourhood are still snow-covered. How does the City prioritize the clearing of sidewalks?

Kingston is one of the few municipalities in Ontario to clear all public sidewalks. The City has 15 sidewalk plows to clear snow from more than 600 kilometres of sidewalk. These plows are not equipped to remove ice from sidewalks.

Here are the sidewalk plowing priorities during normal winter conditions:

  1. Walks adjacent to high volume roadways with high pedestrian volumes.
  2. Balance of walks that can be cleared with mechanized plow.
  3. Walks that require a blower or hand shovelling to clear.

Why does the snowplow fill in the end of my driveway?

Snowplows clear streets from the centre of the street to the curb – sometimes leaving snow across private driveways. This cannot be efficiently prevented. Shovel the snow to the right of your driveway to decrease the amount left by the plow.

Why is more snow left in my driveway than my neighbour's?

When snowplows move around a bend in the street, the turning motion of the vehicle has a funnel effect on the snow coming off the end of the plow. This results in a build-up of snow being unavoidably deposited in driveways beside curves in the road. Greater amounts of snow are also deposited in yards beside street corners.   

I live on a cul-de-sac. Why hasn't the plow cleared all the way to the curb?

Newer sub-divisions have "mountable" or dropped curbs, which make it easy for builders to place driveways anywhere on a given lot – but also make it difficult for snowplow operators to determine the edge of the curb. Night-time plowing and heavy weather make assessing the curb even more challenging. If an operator gets in too close to the curb, the plow can damage boulevards and lawns. Operators err on the side of caution.

Why does the City leave a large pile of snow in the middle of our cul-de-sac?

To deal with heavy snowfall, cul-de-sac clearing is performed in two steps: first, the snowplow will clear the cul-de-sac to open up the roadway, then, after it has stopped snowing, it will come back to clean up. During the clean-up phase, remaining snow is pushed either to the centre of the cul-de-sac or removed completely, depending room for snow storage. Never let your children play in these snow piles – it is not safe.

Why does the snowplow come down my street twice during the same snowfall?

When snow continues to fall over a long period, snowplows may have to clear streets more than once. They do a first pass to open up the street and make it passable to traffic, and then go back to cleanup and bring the street to satisfactory condition. Multiple trips on the same street can be expected during large winter storms. 

Why does the City plow in the middle of the night?

When snowfall makes it necessary, the City clears snow overnight to ensure roads are ready for morning rush hour. Snow clearing operations are more efficient at night when there is little road traffic and no cars parked on the streets. When it's snowing we're going!

Why are snowplow and sanders out on the streets when it is not snowing?

Residents may see City crews out when it's not snowing. Our operators must respond to expected weather as well as current weather.

To help ensure safe driving conditions during expected weather, the City pro-actively applies treatments to – or "pre-treats"– the roads. Depending on the kind of weather expected, one of two applications is used:

  1. Anti-ice liquid is applied to road surface ahead of snowfalls to prevent snow and ice from bonding to surface.
  2. Roads may also be "pre-wetted" – this means salt/sand is sprayed with liquid, which sticks to the road surface with less bouncing and acts quickly melt through ice.

Also, please keep in mind that weather varies across the city, so it can be snowing in one neighbourhood, but not in another.

The snowplow/sidewalk plow has damaged my lawn. What can I do?

Unfortunately, lawn damage does occur sometimes during snow clearing operations. If damage occurs, please contact the City's customer service group at 613-546-0000 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. City crews are deployed early in the spring to fix damaged areas.

Why does the City use sand on icy sidewalks instead of salt? Isn't salt more effective?

The City's sidewalk clearing plows are not equipped to remove ice from sidewalks. Salt does melt the icy surfaces, but sidewalks can ice up again as snowbanks melt onto the sidewalk during the day and freeze up at night. Sand is the preferred treatment as it provides grip for pedestrians using the sidewalk.

Who is responsible for clearing snow in front of the Canada Post multi-stacked mailboxes in my subdivision?

Canada Post. The City is not responsible for clearing the community Canada Post mailboxes found in the newer subdivisions. These are completely maintained by Canada Post. You can contact Canada Post at 1-800-267-1177.

What are Residents responsible for?

Your snow and ice removal responsibilities include:

  • Clear ice and/or snow from walkways and public areas in front of your house, if possible.
  • Clear snow and ice from fire hydrants, if possible.
  • Keep your gas meter clear of snow and ice.
  • Make sure your green bin, garbage and recycling can be seen (at the right side of your driveway or walkway, or on the boulevard closest the curb), and is safely accessible to City collectors at ground level. Keep a path from the road to your collectibles. If waste is placed on top of a snowbank, the top of your receptacles or garbage bag should be no higher than four-and-a-half feet off the ground. Safe placement of collectibles helps ensure pick-up and avoid worker injury.

What are Businesses responsible for?

Businesses fronting onto public sidewalks are required by bylaw to keep them safe by:

  • Clearing snow and ice and covering them with salt or sand (as often as necessary)
  • Removing any hazardous rooftop snow and icicles hanging above the sidewalk.

Business owners who do not comply may face a fine of up to $5,000.

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