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Winter Road Maintenance

SnowplowThe City of Thunder Bay has approved standards for clearing snow during the winter season. These maintenance levels allow for safe, reliable and affordable snow and ice control standards across the city.

Winter Operations Standards Adobe PDF, 7 pages, 52 KB

The Infrastructure & Operations Department, Roads Section coordinates crews that clear 1994 lane-km of roadways and 449 km of sidewalks. Each winter storm is different, making the response different as well. The winter control policies set standards designed to provide a safe and reliable transportation network while protecting the environment and ensuring excellent customer service.

learn how the City deals with unusually large amounts of snow


Typical winter control service levels from November through to April are as follows:

Once snowfall amounts reach five centimeters on the ground, the plows are out. Plowing begins at 2 am on what are considered priority routes - arterial roads to keep emergency and transit routes open. Priority routes are roads that carry the highest volumes of traffic. Arterial roads, hills, overpasses, collector and emergency and school bus routes have the highest priority. It takes about seven hours to clear these main routes.

Snow-removal crews move to residential streets and secondary routes after 10 centimeters of snow is on the ground and the main routes have been cleared. Clearing all residential streets can take up to 72 hours to complete.

Priority Snow Removal Routes Map

Under the City of Thunder Bay's Winter Operations standards, arterial or waste collection routes are the priority for snow removal, and will be cleared after 5 cm of snow has accumulated. All other roadways will be cleared after 10 cm of snow has accumulated.

The following map illustrates the priority routes, which are marked in red. Unmarked roadways are non-priority routes.

Thunder Bay Priority Routes Map Adobe PDF, one page, 804 KB

Thunder Bay is divided into areas or "beats". The City of Thunder Bay follows provincially prescribed standards for winter maintenance (Ontario Regulation 239/02 - Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways).

Winter Seasonal Parking Restrictions
Winter parking restrictions apply to all streets within City boundaries, regardless of current weather conditions. This is necessary to allow quick and effective winter road maintenance.

After the first snow plowing, parking restrictions will be enforced throughout the winter until March 31 – unless lifted by the City earlier in March due to long-range weather predictions.

Priority Route Parking Restrictions
Look for these signs in hospital, school zones, downtown business cores and on bus and emergency vehicle routes. These routes are cleared late at night to ensure that traffic can move safely in the morning rush – as people drive to work and children go to school.

The Parking Authority’s Provincial Offence Officers patrol City streets to enforce the City By-laws. Officers can order the removal of vehicles under the provisions of the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario.

Sanding TruckSanding
The initial response to a snowfall or icy roads is to apply abrasives like sand and/or de-icing agents to provide traction and promote the melting of snow and ice – especially at intersections. The City sands roads and sidewalks as required with sanding trucks and sidewalk plows that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These vehicles distribute various combinations of sand, de-icing salt and other winter control materials. Salt is kept to a minimum. Road sand collected is collected in the spring during street sweeping.

A windrow is a snow pile at the side of a road that is created during the plowing process. Removal of windrows that block driveways is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner.

Snow Removal
Snow is removed from arterial roadways and bus routes when the road driving width restricts safe movement or banks become excessively high. Crews also clear snow from bridge walkways, stairways, bus shelters, fire hydrants, crosswalks and curb ramps. Line-of-sight snow banks will be removed by the Roads Section, time permitting. Property owners are responsible for keeping snow banks low at the end of their driveways.

Severe Winter Storm Events
A severe snowfall emergency response can be initiated at the discretion of the Emergency Operations Centre. The focus of the response will be to restore roadway mobility to allow for the movement of emergency and essential service vehicles until general mobility on the road network can be restored. In a major storm event please monitor the media for updates from the City.

Snow Dump
A public snow dump is available during winter months. Call Dispatch at 625-2195 for the location and contact information.

What can residents do to help?

  • Be patient. Be assured that crews are working hard to keep roads open and safe.
  • Be careful! Stay back when following a plow or sander. Give these large pieces of equipment extra room to manoeuvre. Turning a plow in an intersection often means the driver must back up while making the turn. For safety – please stay back! 
  • If possible, park off the street on your driveway or parking pad during snowfall events and be sure to follow winter parking restrictions.
  • To report problems, contact the Dispatcher at 625-2195.
  • Please do not push snow onto the roadway or across the street onto the boulevard.

Winter Driving Tips
Allow a little extra time and take winter road conditions into consideration.

Leave extra stopping space between your vehicle and the vehicles in front of you.

Remember that visibility is reduced as a result of snow bank accumulations.

Take extra care when approaching snow removal and sanding equipment.

Garbage & Recycling In Winter
Place your waste and recyclables at ground level at the curb. Waste Collection workers cannot safely climb snow banks to pick up garbage and recycling. Check your Waste Collection Calendar for possible changes to collection dates during weeks when statutory holidays occur.

Line of Street Sweepers

Spring Operations: Street Sweeping & Sod Repair
Each spring, once the snow is gone, street sweeping on arterial and collector roads begins. The cleaning process takes six to eight weeks. Once arterials are complete, sweeping efforts move on to residential streets. Sidewalks are swept along with the streets as crews move through the City. For fairness, each year the schedule for sweeping in residential areas is rotated. The City is divided into areas and it takes approximately six weeks to complete the sweeping of residential areas.

The City also repairs areas of sod that are turned up adjoining the curb in the course of winter roads maintenance, including sidewalk plowing. We welcome your input if you notice areas of concern. 

Contact Information:
If you have concerns or questions regarding road clearing, call our Infrastructure & Operations Dispatchers at 625-2195

City of Thunder Bay
Roads Section

Address: Victoriaville Civic Centre
111 Syndicate Avenue S
Thunder Bay ON P7E 6S4 
Tel: (807) 684-2408
Fax: (807) 625-3588
Manager: Brad Adams