Roads Services is responsible for the City’s snow and ice control program. It is committed to helping make Ottawa’s roads, sidewalks and cycling network safe and passable for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. An effective winter maintenance program is essential to allow the City to function under normal winter weather conditions.

What to expect during and after a storm

When roads get plowed

Snow removal is based on a road-priority system, with high-use roads and emergency and transit routes cleared first.

  • Major roads, arterials and major collector roads: Plows are deployed at the start of accumulation.
  • After the last snowflake falls:
    • Major roads, arterials and major collectors: Within four hours
      Roads will not be bare pavement during a storm.
    • Minor collector roads: Within six hours
    • Residential roads and lanes: Within 16 hours

Under extreme winter storm conditions (i.e. those that exceed normal conditions), snow and ice control operations will be carried out based on the capacity of resources in as continuous a manner as practicable. This will give crews the flexibility to provide relief in residential areas while simultaneously maintaining and clearing priority roads.

When sidewalks get cleared

After the last snowflake falls:

  • Sidewalks in the downtown core: Within 6 hours
  • Downtown residential sidewalks: Within 12 hours
  • Residential sidewalks: Within 16 hours
  • Intersections and pedestrian crossings: Within 16 hours
  • Bus stops: Within 24 hours after clean up

If your sidewalk has not been cleared 72 hours after the end of a snowfall, please call 3-1-1. The City does not clear snow from driveways or private sidewalks leading to a residence.

How roads are cleared

After a severe snow storm, operators may have to plow a street twice. Sometimes a grader or dump truck with front and wing plows will do a first pass, followed by a sand/salt truck, to clear a small amount of snow and make sanding/salting more effective.

To clear a cul-de-sac, operators will push the remaining snow to the centre or outside of the street, depending on the available area.

In the early winter, the City removes ruts that have formed on snow-packed surfaces. This keeps catch basin open and helps prevent flooding.

Salt and sand

The City applies dry salt, wet salt, sand salt mix, liquid brine and abrasive materials on streets. Salt is spread early during a snowstorm to make a brine solution that prevents the ice from sticking to the asphalt.

To minimize salt use, rock salt is sprayed with a liquid de-icer as it is spread. This speeds up ice melting by making the salt sticky so it can adhere to the road. 

Anti-icing is used before or at the beginning of freezing rain or other winter precipitation. The de-icing solution consists of pre-wetted salt or a liquid solution. It is applied to the Transitway and Highway 174 to prevent ice from forming and bonding to the pavement. 

Abrasive materials such as sand are used to increase traction in colder temperatures when salt is not effective.

Snow removal and disposal

The City aims to distribute snow on both sides of the road. Snow banks are removed or reduced in size when they begin to restrict sightlines, travel widths, and pedestrian and cycling traffic. Snow banks that restrict sightlines at intersections and at pedestrian, school and railway crossings are removed within 24 hours after crews are made aware of the situation. If weather permits, snow banks are pushed back to curbs to provide more driving width on the roads and to make space to store snow.

The City’s snow disposal facilities do not accept snow from private operators. To find private snow disposal facilities, consult the Yellow Pages, Greater Ottawa Truckers Association or Ottawa Construction Association.

Snow fences

Snow fences reduce the build-up of drifting snow and ice on roads, and improve visibility for motorists. The City installs wood-slat snow fences or partners with local farmers for corn or tree fences.  

Plant a snow fence

The City encourages landowners who plant corn to participate in the Alternative Snow Fencing Program.

In late summer, participating landowners leave six to 12 rows of standing corn parallel to the road and 20 metres from the road’s right-of-way property line. In December, landowners are paid an amount based on the market value per tonne of the unharvested corn, the yield of tonnes per acre, the actual acres standing and for spring clean-up work

In non-agricultural areas, landowners can plant trees 20 metres from the right-of-way property line.

To find out more, please call 3-1-1.

Clearing snow from your property

  • Do not push snow and ice on the street, sidewalk or park.
  • Keep fire hydrants free of snow.
  • Use wood, plastic or fibreglass driveway markers, which should be no larger than a hockey stick.
  • Open catch basins or drains in front of your property when the weather becomes mild.
  • Catch basins are identified by a yellow “T” bar painted on the roadway.

A snow windrow is a pile of snow that accumulates at the end of driveways and on the sides of streets during plowing. It is the responsibility of the home owner to remove their own driveway windrows.