By Shayna Wiwierski
Winnipeg city council will consider additional funding requirements for a new winter maintenance strategy in the 2019 budget process later this fall.
At the end of May 2018, city council voted in favour of a new winter maintenance strategy to better clear snow along Winnipeg’s active transportation routes. The strategy was first requested in March 2016, which will aim to prioritize specific roads, sidewalks, and pathways to provide better access for pedestrians and cyclists to navigate during winter.
“The whole idea was to connect neighbourhoods and connect some of our transportation facilities, so we could move pedestrians and cyclists through our winter,” says Cheryl Anderson, acting manager of streets maintenance with the City of Winnipeg, who adds that the routes were determined through recent consultation with stakeholders. “[It was the] routes they proposed as being important for them. They all lead towards the downtown area.”
City of Winnipeg’s snow clearing and ice control operations are guided by the council-approved policy on snow clearing and ice control, and activities for roads and sidewalks are classfied based on a priority system: Priority 1 includes bridges, underpasses and regional streets; Priority 2 includes non-regional bus routes and collector streets based on traffic counts; and Priority 3 includes residential and/or little-used industrial streets. Up until the new winter maintenance strategy was developed and approved, active transportation facilities have been cleared based on the priority level of the adjacent street.
Due to its geography, Winnipeg experiences very long and cold winters. The average annual snowfall is 110.6 cm and the average winter temperature is -12.9ºC. Anderson says that snow clearing is very challenging to budget for as the snow clearing that is required is direcly related to the weather they receive in the winter months. Typically, the colder it is, the less snow the city gets. Because Winnipeg is very much a winter city, having enough snow storage capacity can often be an issue. The city was designed with boulevards that are used for snow storage in winter, however, more room is sometimes needed in certain years, such as 2016 when they had two back-to-back snowstorms.
Winnipeg’s snow-clearing budget for 2018 is $33.89 million, up from $33.63 million last year (the city ended up expensing $35.56 million in 2017). Since the amount of snowfall is unpredictable, some years they are over budget and other years they are under (which has been the case since 2013). The City’s budget year goes from January to December.
“Winnipeg is a bit more unique [than other cities]. Generally, when we get snow in November and December, it [typically] stays for the winter season. So it’s a bit different due to our colder winter environment. The type of snow we get does stay.”
The City prepares for the winter season starting in October. Anderson says that the city is just in the middle of the financial forecast for 2018. If there is money left over this year then the city will start preparing to implement the new active transportation winter maintenance strategy this winter. If there is no funding available in 2018, then they will start the implementation process next year.
“We are excited to start this service,” says Anderson. “It’s one of the services that we have heard a lot of concerns about from cyclists and pedestrians for getting around the city in the winter.”