Did Hamilton deliver on snow removal this winter? Councillors are asking


Published March 17, 2023 at 11:51 am

Every place in Canada has a snow clearance plan until they get hit with a storm — and councillors in Hamilton are asking whether the city’s response during this icy winter was good enough.

Suburban Ward 14 Coun. Mike Spadafora, with a second from Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson, representing an urban west-end area, is calling for a review of the City of Hamilton’s winter control. The Spadafora-authored motion is on the agenda for a Public Works committee meeting on Monday (March 20).

In December, the city announced it would give more priority to clearing sidewalks. It also committed to being quicker to clear roadways and bus stops along transit routes. That commitment, as Spadafora notes, was stretched by a winter with a “recorded seven ice-related events” after having only one in the winter of 2021-22.

“(Be it resolved) that staff undertake a review of the City of Hamilton’s current level of service for winter control and provide options on how operations could be adapted to enhance accessibility and safety in alignment with the principles of Vision Zero, thereby protecting the interests of vulnerable road users,” the motion reads.

Hamilton has adopted Vision Zero, whose core principle is to eliminate serious injuries or deaths that occur on roadways, to guide its approach to road safety. The motion notes there has been an uptick in reported safety concerns.

“Residents in all new service areas have been filing concerns about child safety and challenges in pedestrian mobility due to snow and ice piling up from road plows,” the motion notes.

“… the City of Hamilton’s climate action strategy (also) identifies the importance of reducing transportation disruption due to extreme weather events and improve the safety of travel on roads, sidewalks, and trails,” another clause notes.

Experts say the increased frequency and intensity of storms in all four seasons is an effect of climate change. Hamilton, which declared a climate emergency in 2019 and adopted an adaptation strategy in ’22, is Canada’s second-most climate-vulnerable area. This winter was perhaps the warmest the city has experienced, but more moisture in the air leads to snow when a low-pressure system moves through.

Ratepayers in the city face a 6.7-per-cent tax increase in the as-yet-unadopted 2023 city budget. The motion does not call for immediate increased spending, and would direct staff to inform the Public Works committee about the “possible level of service revisions and best practices including any cost and resourcing implications.” They would report back by Aug. 31, when service levels in the city’s snow clearance contract are set.

If adopted at committee and ratified by council, staff’s review of Hamilton service levels for “winter control” (i.e., snow and ice removal) would have three areas of focus:

  • HSR transit stops, including boarding access;
  • Controlled crosswalks, crosswalks with stationed crossing guards, school crossings, sidewalks with sloped access, neighbourhood pedestrian and multimodal pathways; and
  • School zones

The storm-and-thaw cycle this winter included the snowiest nine-day stretch residents have experienced in over four years. Per weather historian Rolf Campbell’s Hamilton Weather Records Twitter acccount, the 33.3 cm of snow that fell from March 3 to 11 (last Saturday) was the most in a nine-day span since Jan. 27-Feb. 4, 2019.

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