Getting to (sn)know about Mississauga's Transportation & Works Department

Not all heroes wear capes, and it's not like they would be visible from inside a snow plow, but the Transportation and Works Department of the City of Mississauga are bonafide heroes. Not only do they clear roadways and sidewalks, but they deal with some civilian shenanigans as well. 

The typical work day for one of these unsung cape-less gems is usually a disaster for us regular folk - either snow has been falling, rain has been freezing, or some other automotive hell has been bestowed upon the streets at a critical time of day. Dimly lit in the sky, however, is a snow signal, and help is en-route. 

The troops at the multi-award winning works facility of Mavis Yard assemble before snowstorms hit. Usually this means getting to work in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning. Once at work, several tons of salt gets dumped into a 5-ton truck outfitted with a one ton front plow. From there plow drivers must navigate in the midst of the storm to make roads free of snow and ice.

Heroes never complain, but if they did they would have a couple pointers for drivers and residents to make things easier and better for everybody. 

  • 10-ton snow plows have an understandable max speed of about 40 km/h. Drivers who try to pass them not only endanger themselves and others, but they forgo the base reason for the plows to be on the road in the first place. Traction and safety!
  • Snow plows going through residential neighbourhoods can’t sweep under or (as much as they would like to sometimes) through cars, so parking on the street or on sidewalks is an unnecessary pain they shouldn’t have to feel. This often causes snow plows to leave and come back, wasting everybody’s time and money.
  • Drive slow! The reason snow plows plow snow is because they don’t want accidents to happen. When road conditions are bad, driving slow and steady is the best and safest option. During a snowstorm, being late should be last on the list of worries, and safety should be first.
  • If you’re at a bus stop, the sidewalk plow operators are trained extensively to do as much as possible to make safe contact with the person(s) at the bus stop to let them know they’re there and or approaching. Visual contact is key in our world of headphones and smartphones. Since the tractor can’t move out of the way, the operators hold the safety of residents as their primary objective.

We spent some time in the snow removal truck with Mark and also some time with Scott Holmes, Manager, Works Operations, Transportation & Works Department, as seen in the video below:

Some cool Mississauga figures include:
377: Number of pieces of equipment including contracted equipment
1,400: lane kilometres of priority sidewalks
5,600: lane kilometres of roads
3,700: Number of bus stops
1,000+: Pedestrian crossings
21: Number of salt trucks owned by the City of Mississauga
$275,000+: Approximate value of each truck
5: Number of tonnes of salt each truck can hold
500+: Horsepower of each truck
4: Number of yards in Mississauga set up for snow removal (Mavis, Clarkson, Meadowvale, Malton). There’s a new fifth yard at Queensway and Etobicoke creek coming in 2019, the first new yard in over 25 years
70: Full time unionized employees between all four yards + 10 supervisory staff
9,000: Pounds of salt held at the Mavis yard via two different salt domes
5: Number of years the City has been using pre-treated salt (treated with magnesium chloride which is dyed blue to differentiate between it and regular road salt.)
-8: Temperature where the pre-treated salt is used on bus stops, sidewalks and secondary roads. It’s also stronger so it requires less to be used.

The Ministry of Environment requires a report each year indicating how much salt was used on the roads each winter to monitor the effects on the environment. The City used to put a sand/salt mix on secondary roads up until six years ago, when they changed to the aforementioned pre-treated blue salt because it was proven to lessen the environmental negative impact compared to the sand. Impressively, they’ve won the Salt Management award for the past five years.
In the winter of 2015, the lighter winter saw only 35,000 tonnes of salt used. An “average” winter sees between 45,000 and 50,000 tonnes. 
Brine mixtures are used for about 1,000 lane kilometres (main roads, hills) for anti-icing (23% salt) that prevent the bond from forming with the road/asphalt in temperatures warmer than -7. It gives the workers a bit more time to get out there and fully treat the roads with salt. When it takes about 24 hours to clear the entire city, having an extra two hours due to the brine salt solution makes large impact.

Be safe on the roads during snow removal, allow yourself extra time, make an effort to be seen if you’re a pedestrian, and please remember that Scott Holmes and his hard-working team are always doing their very best to clear the roads safely as soon as safely possible.

Contact information:
www.mississauga.ca/snow which has a real-time tracker updating progress during plowing operations.
https://twitter.com/MississaugaSnow
905-615-4311
905-615-SNOW (7669) outside of city limits
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