Oshawa digs in to clear snow from downtown sidewalks

Oshawa is digging in to make a pilot downtown sidewalk snow clearing program permanent next winter.

“We have many seniors who live in and around our downtown,” said Coun. Derek Giberson. “It’s been very gratifying to see them during the winter out and about, able to live their life.”

For the past two winters, the City has run a temporary pilot program clearing snow from sidewalks in busy pedestrian areas downtown. The one-year program launched in January 2021 and was then extended in September 2021 for one more winter.

“This took place during a pandemic when we had not the same volume of pedestrians and open businesses downtown that we do now,” said Regional Coun. Rick Kerr. “This winter, hopefully we will not go back into that and we will see more foot traffic. We have new apartment towers, condo towers, opening up, more feet on the street which is great for our downtown businesses.”

A recent staff report came to the Community Services Committee with the pilot results:

• Previously, City staff were only required to clear 4.8 km of sidewalk in front of City property. The program added an extra 12.1 km of sidewalks (previously cleared by a patchwork of adjacent property owners) to the City’s sidewalk snow clearing program.

“People were able to access downtown businesses and the downtown businesses felt supported with the snow removed from the City of Oshawa so they could effectively do business,” said Coun. Bradley Marks.

• In the first year of the program (January 2021 to April 2021), there were 17 winter storms, and during year two (November 2021 to April 2022), there were 29 storms.

• The sidewalk snow clearing has been supported by the accessibility advisory committee.

“The accessibility advisory committee is very much in favor of this,” said Coun. Rosemary McConkey. “The number of snow storms we had last winter was phenomenal.”

The downtown sidewalk clearing program was discussed at the June council meeting. Council members considered whether to make the pilot program permanent or not.

At the committee meeting, council members supported making the downtown sidewalk snow clearing a permanent service. It’s expected to add $60,000 to the annual operating budget for temporary staff and an extra $11,000 in salt cost to support the sidewalk snow clearing program.

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