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City of Hamilton – Public Works

Snow Clearing Operations

 Snow Plough

Let's Be Clear

With some forecasters predicting a cold and snowy winter upon us, drivers and pedestrians need to be prepared for getting around in winter weather conditions. The City of Hamilton’s Public Works department is prepared too. To help you get around our city safely, and to help our crews keep streets clear and safe, we have created these pages with information about our snow clearing and icing prevention programs along with tips for drivers and pedestrians.

Let’s Be Clear is our public awareness campaign to suggest ways in which the driving public and Hamilton property owners can help keep roads and sidewalks clear and safe this winter. The information and tips on these pages may not only help our crews clear city streets more efficiently, they may also reduce accidents and injuries on our roads and sidewalks.

How do I prepare before the snow flies?

Snow Route Sign
Drivers need to prepare their vehicle for winter weather. Learn and practice winter driving techniques before you need them. If you travel the same route to work, school or shopping, take notice of the parking and stopping restrictions where you would normally park. Snow route signs are posted on most major roads where getting the snow cleared out quickly is important to keeping traffic moving well in snow storms. Other major roads may not have snow route signs but it’s still a good idea not to park on those busy streets during a heavy snowfall even if on-street parking is allowed at certain times of the day.

Our focus is to ensure that Hamilton’s roads remain functional for emergency vehicles, buses, business and major institutions like schools and hospitals.

Priority 1 - Main Arterial Roads and Escarpment Crossings

Main routes and escarpment accesses are our first priority. Examples of main, or arterial, roads are The Linc, Red Hill Valley Parkway, Main Street, Cannon Street, Hamilton Rte. 56 (former Hwy. 56) and many of the main arterial roads that run through Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook and Stoney Creek.

Priority 2 - Primary and Secondary Collector Roads

Collector roads – the side streets that feed into the arterial roads – are the next to be cleared of snow. Even though these roads may be well travelled, they may not be designated Snow Routes. However, it’s best to park off these roads where possible so that the snow plows and snow clearing equipment can clear them more effectively. Snow clearing on the collector roads may start up to four hours after the start of a snowfall.

Examples of primary collector roads are: MacNab Street and Depew Street in the lower City; Brucedale Avenue on Hamilton Mountain; Fletchers Road, Binbrook; Pleasant Avenue, Dundas and Tradewind Drive, Ancaster.

Examples of secondary collector roads are: Graham Avenue and Aberdeen Avenue in the lower City; Queensdale Road on Hamilton Mountain; Glover Road, Stoney Creek; Jerome Park Drive, Dundas and Bridgeport Crescent, Ancaster.  

Priority 3 - Residential and Rural Roads

Residential and local rural roads are the last to be cleared of snow. It takes a lot of time and resources to ensure the main routes and side streets are cleared for safe travel, so we ask your patience in getting your neighbourhood street cleared. Snow clearing on the residential streets may start up to eight hours after the start of a snowfall.

Examples of residential roads are: Forest Avenue and Tolton Avenue in the lower City; Fano Drive on Hamilton Mountain; Second Street North, Stoney Creek; Hopkins Court, Dundas and Portsmouth Crescent, Ancaster.

Examples of rural roads are: Colris Road, Binbrook; Ferris Road, Mount Hope; Fallsview Road, Flamborough and Old Hwy 99, Dundas.

The Provincial highways that run through the City of Hamilton are maintained by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO). These highways include:

  • QEW,
  • Hwy. 403,
  • Hwy. 6 (north from Hwy. 403 through Dundas and Flamborough and south from Hwy. 403 through Ancaster and Glanbrook),
  • Hwy. 5 (between Clappison’s Corners and Peter’s Corners in Flamborough)
  • Hwy. 8 (north from Peter’s Corners through Flamborough).

See the High Priority Roads map to see most of Hamilton’s first priority roads, signed Snow Routes and MTO maintained roads.

Snow advisory means get ready

When a heavy snowfall is forecast for our area, courtesy warnings will be broadcast on area radio stations. While not a formal snow emergency, the snow advisory is a heads-up to drivers to prepare for winter driving conditions.

When you hear a snow advisory on the radio:

  • Park your vehicle off the street where possible.
  • Check for Snow Route, No Stopping and No Parking signs when parking on streets.
  • Take public transit (visit the HSR Website for information on fares, schedules and connections with GO Transit and Burlington Transit).
  • If you must drive, give yourself more time to reach your destination. Always drive according to weather and road conditions.
  • Keep tuned in to a local radio station to listen for a possible snow emergency to be declared later.

When a winter storm hits

In advance of an imminent winter storm, Public Works staff applies salt, salt/sand or a salt solution to City streets. This helps keep snow and ice from sticking to the streets. Once the storm begins, the City’s Public Works and contracted forces begin plowing the 6,300 lane kilometres of the roadway system that blankets the City of Hamilton. First priority is the main routes and escarpment crossings. Second priority is collector roads. Third priority is neighbourhood streets.

Car in the ditchThe City has designated certain roads as snow emergency routes. When the City declares a Snow Emergency, it is illegal to park on these roads. Vehicles found blocking snow routes during an emergency may be ticketed and/or towed at the owner's expense. A Snow Emergency is announced on local radio stations. Please pay special attention to news broadcasts if and when the weather turns bad. Snow emergency routes may be signed with one of three types of signing, "No Stopping Anytime", "No Parking Anytime", "No Parking Snow Route".

When the snow begins to fall:

  • Park your vehicle off the street where possible.
  • If you must park on a street, be sure not to park in a spot that has Snow Route, No Stopping or No Parking signs.
  • Take public transit (visit the HSR Website for information on fares, schedules and connections with GO Transit and Burlington Transit).
  • If you must drive, drive according to weather and road conditions.
  • Give snow plows and snow removal vehicles as much room as possible. Stay back at least 25 metres from snow plows, sanders and other equipment so the operator can see you.
  • Stay behind snow plows. Passing a plow is dangerous to you, other drivers and the snow plow operator.
  • Keep tuned in to a local radio station to listen for a possible snow emergency to be declared later.

Snow and your property (home and business owners)

Property owners can also help keep our streets and sidewalks safe in winter. When clearing snow off sidewalks or driveways, please do not put snow onto the roads; not only it is illegal, it is unsafe.

Keep an eye on the catch basins (sewer grates), curbside gutters and drainage ditches around your property. Clean out any leaves, debris or snow build-up. This helps prevent flooding and property damage when the snow melts. It also prevents ice build-up on the street at times when there can be quick changes in temperature.

The City of Hamilton’s Snow Removal By-law requires that all residential and commercial property owners or occupants clear their public sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm. If you’re able, be a good neighbour by clearing the sidewalks in front of their homes, especially those who may not be physically able to do so.

If you have a fire hydrant on or near your property, please help keep the hydrant clear of snow and other obstructions. Time is essential when fighting a fire; every minute counts. Time wasted locating a fire hydrant could be used to safeguard lives and property.

Snow clearing hints for property owners and occupants:

  • When clearing your driveway, consider the direction of travel of the snowplow. If you move snow toward the side of your property that the plow finishes crossing your driveway, less snow will be spread back across the driveway when the plow passes.
  • Keep children off snow banks to prevent them from slipping into the path of vehicles and equipment. Do not let children tunnel into snow banks. The snow can collapse or be pushed back by snow plows.
  • On your garbage day, make sure your garbage container, blue boxes and green cart are visible to the collection crews. Do not place items on top of snow banks or behind snow banks where the collectors can’t see them.
  • If it’s windy on your garbage day, secure your recyclables so that items don’t blow away. Place heavier items on top of lighter items. For example, place magazines or catalogues on top of loose paper. This will help to prevent litter on your neighbourhood streets and properties when the snow melts.

Blizzard here, nothing there – Hamilton’s weather variables

Variability seems to be the norm for Hamilton when it comes to weather. Environment Canada’s Geoff Coulson says that three factors play a very important role in the weather in the Hamilton area – the Escarpment, Lake Ontario and the surface or low level wind direction. “In the fall and winter months these factors can combine to produce localized heavy bands of snow in some areas while other nearby areas remain relatively unaffected.” A slight difference in wind direction can lead to dramatically different weather impacts across the Hamilton area. Temperature variations between locations near the lakefront and those up on the Escarpment can lead to differences in the type of precipitation that occurs. For a given storm system, this can mean rain falling near Lake Ontario, freezing rain in locations going up the Escarpment and snow for those situated on top of the Escarpment. Snow plows at the ready

These are the types of weather variables our Public Works roads crews face when keeping traffic moving safely along the 6,300 lane kilometers of roadway across Hamilton. Snowplow operators are often the first ones – and sometimes the only vehicles – on a stretch of road which is covered in snow and ice. They often work in the dark and must cope with poor visibility. “Their first concern is your safety and mobility,” says Darrel Smith, Hamilton’s Manager of Roads and Maintenance. “They clear high priority roads first to allow emergency service vehicles and the public safe travel to hospitals, schools and work.”

With Hamilton’s unique geography and climate conditions, heavy snowfalls, severe snowstorms, high winds, freezing rain and extremely cold and icy temperatures can cause problems on our roads. When these occur, all drivers have an important role to play to keep things safe. Plan ahead, drive according to road conditions and give snowplows the space they require to get the job done. In particularly severe weather conditions, avoid traveling when possible to allow maintenance crews to clear snow and ice more quickly and safely.