Residents want answers about slow storm clean-up
As many local residents waited anxiously for plows and sanders to arrive following a snowstorm that began on Jan. 4 and ended Jan. 7, many took to social media to express their frustrations about their roads.
Others contacted the Advocate asking for answers asking for answers about the lack of snow removal on their roads, particularly in some of the less travelled areas of the city.
We posed the questions we were asked, and many more, to Bryan Robinson, director of public works for Kawartha Lakes, whose department is tasked with plowing over 5,400 lane kilometres of road after every weather event.
“That distance of lane kilometres we have to plow is equivalent to the distance from Lindsay to Gloucester, England,” Robinson said in an exchange of emails.
Some frustrated residents wanted to know if the city is in possession of adequate equipment and personnel needed to deal with unpredictable winter weather.
“The municipality is operating 59 tandem axle plow trucks, 14 single axle plow trucks, 12 side walk plows and two pick-up truck plow routes internally,” Robinson said. “The above numbers include spare tandem and single axle plow trucks to cover mechanical breakdowns.”
Robinson said that the city has increased their winter services force by contracting private plow vehicles which are responsible for nine arterial road plow routes, one secondary road plow route and many side walk plowing locations in smaller communities.
Robinson explained that the city has 80 internal staff who respond to each winter weather event, broken down into 68 plow drivers, 10 side walk plow operators and two pick-up plow drivers.
“Kawartha Lakes currently has a full compliment of drivers for all routes,” Robinson said.
Robinson added the city also reserves the right to recruit from the pool of all unionized public works staff who have their DZ license to help manage a snow event.
Some residents wondered what the cost would be for the city to beef up its winter service fleet to clear roads in a timelier manner.
“At current market rates,” Robinson said, “a fully equipped plow truck can cost in the range of $340,000 to $360,000.”
Callers to the Advocate asked if winter service could be improved by letting the drivers work longer shifts during a snow emergency.
Robinson pointed out that plow drivers are regulated by provincial legislation that allows them to be on duty for a maximum of 14 hours a day including breaks, pre-trip inspections and post-trip inspections. Once a driver has reached 14 hours of on-duty time, the driver cannot drive again on the same day.
The director also made it clear that roads are serviced on defined timelines set out in provincial legislation that classifies roads from Class One to Class Six based on the speed limit and traffic volume. Roads that are classified as Class One, Two, or Three have higher legislated requirements to keep minimum maintenance standards, and are the priorities in a winter weather event.
“Kawartha Lakes has no Class One roads,” Robinson said. “(However) the municipality has many Class Two and Three roads which are defined as high volume arterial roads. Currently, Kawartha Lakes has designated (plow) routes that service these high-volume arterial roads first.”
“Roads that aren’t considered a high traffic arterial route,” Robinson added, “will receive service starting as early as 4 a.m. and continue until the routes have all been serviced. These routes are not generally serviced between the hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. except where weather and road conditions deteriorate to a state where the travelled road network has compromised the road users’ safety.”
“The higher the traffic count and/or speed, the greater the level of service,” Robinson concluded. “Plow routes are organized in such a way that arterial roads (those with the highest traffic counts) are serviced to the highest level. Secondary plow routes are organized similarly with priority being given to the higher traffic volume roads; the lowest traffic volume roads are serviced last.”