/Breaking down winter road maintenance 

Breaking down winter road maintenance 

By Chad Ingram

Published Jan. 12 2017

Haliburton County received significant snowfall in December and so far that snowfall has been continuing into the New Year.
What happens within municipal roads departments when the community gets a dumping of the white stuff? The paper asked local roads superintendents to explain the process.
All municipal roadways are maintained under the province’s Minimum Maintenance Standards (MMS) for Municipal Highways which are based on traffic volume and speed limits.

Haliburton County

“The busier county roads have greater priority and are treated predominantly with salt and according to conditions” county roads director Craig Douglas wrote in an email to the paper. “[They] are all paved roads which we want to return to bare pavement as soon as possible.”
These busier roads include County Road 21 County Road 121 and County Road 503 as well as parts of County Roads 1 3 6 7 16 and 648.
“As a road’s traffic volume or posted speed limit decreases the road is sanded only and we anticipate the road to remain predominantly snow-packed” Douglas wrote.
At the county level roads staff are scheduled for morning or afternoon/evening shifts Monday through Friday. During weekends staff must be called in.

Minden Hills

“Using the MMS as the standard and working closely with the bus lines we are able to prioritize routes to ensure roads are opened up in a safe and timely manner” wrote Minden Hills roads superintendent Travis Wilson. “The township maintains County Road 2 and County 20 for the county in the winter months only. This is a cost saving operation for the township and the county as we drive both county roads to maintain our township roads. Typically you will see all ‘through’ roads and school bus routes plowed and sanded first.”
Most Minden Hills roads are Class 4 and 5 meaning they are cleared once snow accumulation has reached eight to 10 centimetres.
“With that being said plowing generally begins once the storm has ended” Wilson wrote. In-town maintenance in Minden typically begins at 4 a.m. with operations on other roads starting at 5:30 a.m. Drivers are typically done their routes by 2 p.m. or so.
“If a storm is heavy and continues throughout the afternoon operators will continue plowing as required” Wilson wrote.
During the weekends Wilson and his lead hand alternate along with one other staffer ready to go to work if necessary.
“That being said our staff are very diligent in checking the weather regularly and knowing that if it snows they will be out plowing” he wrote. “Staff that know they won’t be available on a weekend will give advance notice so that we have time to make other arrangements to cover their route.”

Algonquin Highlands

“During either a regular snow event where plowing is required or a day where just sanding is needed staff will usually follow a specified route” wrote public works director Mike Thomas. “Following a specified route not only keeps everything flowing smoothly but also helps the public get used to what time they can expect that their road will be taken care of.”
Algonquin Highlands’ road network is divided into six main routes.
“These six routes cover an area from Carnarvon in the south all the way up to Oxtongue in the north” Thomas wrote. “All roads within the Township of Algonquin Highlands receive the same attention with the exception of when we sometimes experience a heavy snowfall later in the day. When this happens staff will concentrate on roads that have a higher traffic volume and/or roads that would be harder to navigate with a higher accumulation of snow.”
In Algonquin Highlands staffing works the same on weekends as it does weekdays.
“Weekends are treated the same as a regular day through the week with the same number of staff” Thomas wrote. “If we experience a snowstorm on a Friday night we will be out there first thing Saturday morning as we don’t have staff working through the night. During a freezing rain event staff will respond as soon as possible.”
The public works department also performs winter maintenance at Stanhope Airport church parking areas community centres public parking lots as well as the township’s outdoor skating rinks.

Driving tips

The roads superintendents remind residents to always drive according to conditions.
“We can’t say this enough drivers need to slow down and drive according to conditions and be patient with roads staff trying to keep roads safe for all” Douglas wrote. “Please keep in mind that plow trucks need to clear out the centre of the road so when faced with an oncoming plow please slow down and yield plenty of room.”
Wilson reminds residents how quickly snow-packed roads can turn to ice after rainfall.
“It seems that we haven’t had a stretch longer than 12 days where we haven’t received a significant rain event” he wrote. “I cannot stress enough that during these events everybody should practise using more patience. During rain events snow-packed roads (which make up close to 95 per cent of the Minden Hills roads network) will turn to a sheet of ice. During these events plow operators will install tire chains on their trucks to help provide traction. It is just as unsafe for our plow trucks to speed as it is for any other driver so a route that typically takes eight hours to complete may take nine or 10 plus hours.
“A lot of people believe that during rain events we can apply sand to a road and instantly create traction” Wilson continued. “While sand will add some traction it will be washed away if a rain event continues. It can take several days and snow accumulation to get roads back to a more safe snow-packed state.”
Wilson commended the Minden Hills roads department staff and other local departments for the job they’ve been doing during what he called a fairly aggressive start to this year’s winter.