Skip to main content

Winter maintenance

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.

Snow and ice control on roads

Snow Clearing:

As accumulation begins, City crews will deploy crews to clear Hwy 174, Transitway, most arterials and most major collector roads. These roads should be clear within 2-4 hours of the end of accumulation.

After 5 cm of accumulation, City crews will begin clearing most minor collector roads. These roads should be clear within 6 hours of the end of accumulation.

After 7 cm of accumulation, City crews will begin clearing most residential roads. These roads should be clear within 10 hours of the end of accumulation.

City crews will plow residential roads to a snow-packed surface. When necessary, materials will be applied to keep roads safe.

Bus stops are cleared within 24 hours of the end of accumulation.

Winter overnight parking restrictions take effect if a snow fall of 7cm (5 – 10 cm) is forecast.

City crews use standard practices to plow the roads, streets and sidewalks.

Roads:  Routes are planned to help operators do their job effectively and efficiently. After a severe snow storm, operators may have to plow a street twice. If the City waits too long before plowing again, the road will be more difficult to navigate. Sometimes a grader or dump truck with front and wing plows will do a first pass, followed by a sand/salt truck, which clears a small amount of snow to make sanding/salting more effective.

Cul-de-sacs: Cul-de-sacs are cleaned up to ensure access for emergency vehicles, garbage and recycling trucks, Para Transpo vehicles and delivery vehicles; access to driveways; enough room to plow and sand; and reduce the effects of spring runoff. The plow opens up the area, then after a storm pushes the remaining snow to the centre or outside of the cul-de-sac, depending on the available area.

Driveway entrances: The City has tested many strategies that claim to keep snow out of driveway entrances. None have been economical or effective. Other measures the City has tried also proven to be both very expensive and very slow.

Fire Hydrants: Residents and contractors are reminded to not pile snow over or against hydrants when clearing pathways and driveways in the winter. Doing so may delay access in emergency situations and is against the City’s Water By-Law.

Mailbox and lawn damage: Occasionally roadside mailboxes are damaged or destroyed when hit by the snow plow. They will be repaired or replaced. However, mailboxes damaged by the snow that comes off the wing of a plow are not eligible. To report a damaged mailbox, please call 3-1-1 or report online at If City equipment damages your lawn, please call 3-1-1 or report online at  In early spring crews will investigate and repair damaged areas by using topsoil and seed. It is the residents responsibility to water until the new seed has properly rooted. 

Overnight plowing: Depending on when a storm hits, the City may have to plow overnight. This is not only a more efficient time, but also ensures that streets are clear for morning rush-hour traffic.

Ruts: In the early winter, crews take advantage of mild overnight temperatures to remove ruts that have formed on snow-packed surfaces. This helps to keep catch basins open to avoid flooding. If weather permits, we push snow banks back to curbs to provide more driving width on the roads and to create areas for storing the snow.

Windrows: Snow plowed across private approaches and/or walks and resulting from sidewalk clearing operations shall not be removed.

Private lanes are not plowed by City crews.

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.

All roads are grouped in classes and by type. They are listed in the Council approved Maintenance Quality Standards for Roads, Sidewalks and Pathways. These standards are used to prioritize how frequently roads are plowed, how ice is controlled and how snow is removed. High priority roads and most arterial roads are dealt with first. 

The following describes the City of Ottawa’s Council approved Maintenance Quality Standards for snow and ice control on city roads. Refer to Ontario Regulation 239/02, Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highway, for the provincial standards for Roads, Sidewalks, and Pathways.

As accumulation begins:
  • Most high priority roads should be cleared to bare pavement within 2 hours of the end of accumulation.
  • Most arterial roads should be cleared to bare pavement within 3 hours of the end of accumulation.
  • Most major collector roads should be cleared to bare pavement within 4 hours of the end of accumulation.
After 5cm of accumulation:
  • Most minor collector roads should be cleared to bare pavement within 6-16 hours of the end of accumulation.
  • Most minor collector roads should be cleared to centre bare pavement within 6-16 hours of the end of accumulation.
  • Most minor collector roads should be cleared to snow packed surface within 6-16 hours of the end of accumulation.
After 7cm of accumulation:
  • Residential roads and lanes should be cleared to snow packed surface within 10 hours of the end of accumulation.
After 10cm of accumulation:
  • Residential roads and lanes should be cleared to snow packed surface within 16 hours of the end of accumulation.

Snow and ice control on sidewalks

Unlike many other municipalities, the City of Ottawa provides mechanical snow clearing for sidewalks.

  • After 2.5 cm of accumulation, City crews will begin clearing most sidewalks in the downtown core. These sidewalks should be clear within 4 hours of the end of accumulation.
  • After 5 cm of accumulation, City crews will begin clearing most primary. These sidewalks should be clear within 12 hours of the end of accumulation.
  • After 5 cm of accumulation, City crews will begin clearing most residential. These sidewalks should be clear within 16 hours of the end of accumulation.
  • The service does not include the clearing of snow from driveways or private approaches (private sidewalks) leading to a residence.
  • If your property is a corner lot, the sidewalk on the flank will not necessarily be cleared at the same time as the sidewalk at the front. This work is sometimes performed by different equipment.

What to expect during a storm

What to expect during a winter storm. Ottawa's resources are deployed systematically in time to clear snow accumulation.

Visit our YouTube Page and click “show more” for the descriptive video text.

Ottawa's resources are deployed systematically.

Minimum depth
of snow
for deployment
of resources
Locations Time to clear snow
accumulation from
the end of snow
accumulation or
Time to treat
icy conditions
As accumulation begins Hwy 174, Transitway, most arterials and most major collector roads 2-4 hours
2.5 cm Most sidewalks in downtown core 4 hours
5 cm Most minor collector roads 6 hours
5 cm Most primary sidewalks 12 hours
5 cm Most residential sidewalks 16 hours
7 cm Most residential roads 10 hours
10 cm Most lanes 16 hours
Clean up

Most intersections and pedestrian crossings

16 hours

Most Bus stops

24 hours

Winter overnight parking ban

How can I find out if there is an overnight parking ban in effect?

Sign up to receive e-mail or Twitter notifications of overnight parking restrictions at This service is free and you can unsubscribe anytime. Call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401). Listen to local media for special advisories about on-street parking.

How do I sign up to receive e-Alerts or Twitter notifications of overnight parking restrictions?

Start by visiting the web page

For e-Alerts, follow the instructions provided, entering your e-mail, first name, last name and newsletter preferences. Once you hit “subscribe,” you will receive an e-mail asking that you confirm the subscription.

For Twitter, you must first have a Twitter account. If you don’t have an account, simply click on the “Sign up” link located at the right-hand side of the screen. From the Ottawa Twitter page click "Follow".

How do I receive Twitter notifications on my cell phone?

While logged into your Twitter account, go to “Profile and settings.” Click on the tab named “Mobile.” Read the information on the right-hand of the screen and enter the required information. Now you don’t need to be near your computer to receive notification of overnight parking restrictions!

Why are there temporary no parking signs placed in snow banks?

When snow removal is planned, City staff develop a street-by-street schedule for the snow removal operation. City crews place temporary ‘No Parking’ signs along the roadside 12 hours prior to snow removal operation. Vehicles parked where temporary no-parking signs are posted will be ticketed and towed away. The residents are encouraged to park on nearby streets where no signs are posted.

When does the overnight parking ban come into effect?

Winter overnight parking regulations are in effect throughout the city from November 15 to April 1. This means that residents cannot park on city streets between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. when a snow accumulation of 7 cm or more is forecast by Environment Canada in the Ottawa area. This includes any forecast for a range of snow of more than 7 cm, for example, 5 to 10 cm. Vehicles that remain parked on the street during an overnight parking restriction will be ticketed. On-street parking permit holders are exempt from this restriction.

These restrictions allow snow removal crews clearer access to streets, creating a faster and more efficient process.

Salt and sand

The City applies dry salt, wet salt, sand salt mix, liquid brine, and abrasive materials on our streets.


Salt is spread early during a snowstorm to make a brine solution.


In addition to dry rock salt, other methods are used to deal with snow and ice accumulation:

  • Pre-wetting: Rock salt is sprayed with a liquid de-icer as it is spread. This makes the salt sticky so it can adhere to the road and accelerates the ice melting process. Pre-wetting decreases salt use by 20 per cent.
  • Anti-icing: This method 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 only) to prevent ice from forming and bonding to the pavement.
  • Abrasives: Abrasives such as sand are used in colder temperatures when salt is not effective or for roads that have snow-packed treatment standards. Abrasives do not melt snow and ice, but are used to increase traction.

Grit Box Program

Spread it around for safe winter sidewalks

City of Ottawa grit box map

To make the city’s sidewalks safe to walk on in the winter, the City of Ottawa has placed 81 "do-it-yourself" grit boxes at various locations for residents to use. The boxes contain the same winter grit used by the City's snow operations' staff to keep sidewalks safe for everyone. 

The grit boxes are located close to steep hills and in areas where there are many pedestrians, seniors and persons using mobility devices. All residents are encouraged to spread the grit on slippery spots on sidewalks and other problem areas. 

With the support of the Older Adult Plan the City of Ottawa has expanded the Grit Box Program. The City has increased the number of grit boxes along sidewalks known to have a high volume of older adult pedestrians. To better promote the do-it-yourself service, new stickers have been placed on each box. 

For more information on seniors and fall prevention, visit Ottawa Public Health's fall prevention section on or by calling 3-1-1.

To learn more about the grit box program, you can watch this video.

Visit our YouTube Page and click “show more” for the descriptive video text.

Grit Box Locations

100 Constellation Danforth at Churchill
100 Empress Dead end of Augusta
1200 Quigleu Hill Dead end of Echo
150 MacLaren (south side) Deschenes at Pooler
207 Woodroffe Edgecliffe and Caldwell
25 Fairmont at Wellington Elgin and Cooper - S/E corner
264 Lisgar Elgin and Laurier - S/W corner
2947 Otterson at Otterson Tunnel Elgin and Slater (south of ramp)
31 McEwen George at William Mall
327 Cyr Gladstone between Bayswater and Spadina
395 Somerset Gladstone between Breezehill and Loretta
4120 Riverside (easement) Heney at Wurtemburg
4120 Riverside (easement) King Edward and Union - base of pathway
434 Brunskill  Lacasse at Montreal
 441 Edgeworth  Laurier and Metcalfe (Ottawa Public Library)
 5112 Sand (near Russell)  Laurier Bridge stairs - top
 5550 Ann  Lenester and Iroquois
 587 Fielding at Otterson Tunnel  Lepage and McBride
 60 Cartier  Mackenzie King Bridge stairs - top
 61 McEwen  Maclaren and Elgin
 75 Bruyere  Main at Vance, Osgoode
 77 Monk  Maple and Acacia
 800 St. Laurent  Metcalfe and MacLaren
 905 Springland at Flannery Tunnel  Morisset at Merivale
 917 Cromwell at Flannery Tunnel  New Orchard at Richmond
 Acacia Lane - top of hill (south side)  Nicholas at stairs to Mackenzie King
 Albert and Empress - S/E corner  Ohio at Bank
 Albert and Metcalfe - N/E corner  Ravenhill at Melbourne
 Balsam between Rochester and Preston  Rideau and Colonel By
 Bank and MacLaren - N/W corner  Rideau and Mackenzie
 Beausoleil at Cobourg  Rideau at The Bay
 Booth and Elm - S/W corner  Rochester and Gladstone - N/E corner
 Britannia at Carling  Sandy Hill Health Centre - Nelson at Besserer
Bronson - north side of canal bridge (east stairs)  Spark Street Mall between Elgin and Lyon
 Bronson - north side of canal bridge (west stairs)  Sunnyside and Bank
 Bronson - south side of canal bridge (east stairs)  Sunnyside and Riverdale
 Bronson - under Dunbar bridge between stairs  Trepannier at Sparkle
 Charlotte at Rideau  William at York
 Chesterton at Meadowlands  Wurtemburg at Rideau
 Connaught at Sackville  Young between Bayswater and Fairmont
Dalhousie and Bolton  

Snow removal and disposal

Snow removal may be scheduled for your street. Please watch for temporary on-street "no parking" snow removal signs.  Every effort is made to distribute snow on both sides of the road and on-street snow storage space is used to the maximum, including boulevards and cul-de-sac circles.

Snow banks are removed or reduced in size when they begin to restrict sightlines, travel widths, and pedestrian and cycling traffic; to relieve trapped water on the road or sidewalk; and to create storage space for future snowfalls. 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 the number of locations exceeds available resources, they will be addressed on a priority basis. When dealing with snow banks, crews push back, blow or place the snow within boulevards, which are part of the city's road allowance. This is the most economical method, while snow removal and haulage is costly and time-consuming.

Residents are not to place snow onto the road. A by-law is in place to discourage people from doing so. Please call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401) and By-law Services will be advised.

To learn more about snow plowing you can watch this video.

The City’s snow disposal facilities no longer accept non-city snow from private operators. They do, however, accept snow from contractors hauling snow from public property on behalf of the City.

Haulers must dispose of snow according to the Use and Care of Roads By-Law No. 2003-498 and Parks and Facilities By-Law No. 2004-276, which prohibit the dumping of snow or ice on highways or in parks.

Snow disposal facilities

The City’s snow disposal facilities no longer accept non-city snow from private operators. They do, however, accept snow from contractors hauling snow from public property on behalf of the City.

For more information, please contact Kevin Monette, Manager, Operations Planning and Research, Roads Services Branch, at

Common questions and answers

  1. Where are the contractors who previously hauled private snow to city sites going to dispose of their snow?
    To find private snow disposal facilities, consult the Yellow Pages, Greater Ottawa Truckers Association or Ottawa Construction Association.
  2. Do private sites have provisions to reduce groundwater contamination?
    The City is not responsible for the operation of private snow disposal facilities and cannot comment.
  3. Does the City foresee any issues since it no longer accepts private snow?
    In 2004, the private sector was given a two-year grace period to find alternative sites to dispose of snow.
  4. Snow is being deposited on vacant land in my area. Is this permitted?
    Please call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401) and your call will be referred to a Development Information Officer for your appropriate area, who will determine the zoning regulations and whether snow disposal is a permitted land use. If it is not permitted, the City's Development Services and/or By-Law and Regulatory Services will investigate.
  5. If private contractors are willing to pay to dispose of their private snow, could the City not have kept the sites open to private haulers?
    There is no legal authority or legislative responsibility that compels a municipality to provide private snow disposal services. City Council approved a staff report in October 2002 recommending that the City’s snow disposal sites be exclusively for the City's use.
  6. Where can private snow disposal facilities be located?
    Development Services regulate land use through the zoning by-laws and the Official Plan addresses snow disposal facilities.
  7. Who should I call if I have environmental questions relating to snow disposal?
    Please call the Ministry of the Environment's Ottawa office at 613-521-3450 or 1-800-860-2195 (toll free).
  8. What acts of legislation govern snow disposal facilities?
    o Environmental Protection Act
    o Ontario Water Resources Act
    o Environmental Assessment Act
    o Planning Act

For more information, please refer to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Snow plow road safety tips

When the snow falls, City crews immediately start clearing the way for you.  With such a large network of roads clearing snow from City streets requires collaboration and support from staff and residents. Residents can help make the process safer for everyone.  One way to help is please slow down and let snow plow operators lead the way when you see a blue light. Below are some additional tips that you can do to make our roads safe and clear of snow. 

  • Be patient and keep a safe distance behind working snow plows.  Snow plows often travel slowly because they are removing snow, spreading salt or sand and applying liquid anti-ice to roadways. 
  • Never pass a snow plow.  Snow plows are wider than the average vehicle with large blades that extend a metre or more ahead and into the neighbouring lane. Passing a snow plow on the right could result in severe and even fatal collisions. 
  • Don’t drive beside snow plows.  Snow plows sometimes shift sideways when they are plowing packed snow or drifts which could put you at risk for a collision. 
  • Move aside. Snow plows often drive along the centre line of a roadway to remove snow.  If you are approaching a snow plow from the opposite direction, shift right, if conditions allow, to ensure there is enough space for the plow to pass you safely. 
  • Beware of reduced visibility. Even at reduced plowing speeds, a light powdery snow forms a cloud in the wake of a snow plow that severely restricts a driver’s visibility.  This makes passing extremely dangerous. 
  • Do not pass between snow plows in tandem.  On multi-lane roads snow plows often work in tandem, forming an echelon or “conga line”.  Passing or weaving between these plows is dangerous.  Please stay well back of echelon plows. 
  • Watch for snow plows on sunny days.  Snow plows and removal equipment are out for several hours and even days after a storm clearing shoulders and cutting back snow banks.  Please be aware of plows even on clear days. 
  • Teach children to play away from the road.  The driver of a snow plow may not be able to see a child playing in the snow. 
  • Children should never build snow forts or tunnels along the roadway.  Snow forts and tunnels may collapse or be pushed down by snow plows or removal equipment. 
  • Pedestrians should ensure they are visible.  Pedestrians should move back from the road if they see or hear a snow plow approaching.

Visit our YouTube page and click “show more” for the descriptive video text.”

Snow fences

Snow fences reduce the build-up of drifting snow and ice on roads, and help keep winter roads safe by improving visibility for motorists. The City of Ottawa installs many kilometres of traditional wood-slat snow fences or partners with local farmers for alternative corn fences along its roads.  These are installed only where and if landowners agree.

A typical snow fence is made of wood slats or synthetic material. With the landowner’s consent, it is placed on a property in the fall once crops have been removed and the ground is dry. The fence is removed in the spring before crops are planted. Landowners are not paid for allowing access to their land.

Alternative snow fences

The City of Ottawa began using corn and tree rows as alternatives to traditional snow fencing during the winter of 1996–97. Corn and trees:

  • Provide the same protection as regular wood-slat snow fencing
  • Are an economical alternative to the high cost of installing, removing, repairing, replacing and storing traditional snow fences
  • Prevent potential damage to tile drainage systems, which may occur when wood-slat fences are being installed

Sites are selected where drifting snow is common, and according to road class priority and the City’s budget. Landowners who plant corn crops are encouraged to participate in the Alternative Snow Fencing Program. Here’s how the program works:

  • Each year in late summer, city staff ask participating landowners to leave a swath of standing corn (six to 12 rows wide), parallel to the road and about 20 metres from the road’s right-of-way property line
  • Landowners are paid in December an amount based on the market value per tonne of the unharvested corn, the yield of tonnes per acre, the actual acres standing (six to 12 rows) and for spring cleanup work

In non-agricultural areas, landowners are encouraged to plant trees as windbreaks. The setback distance from the edge of the road is the same as for corn (20 metres from the right-of-way property line).

Tree windbreaks offer:

  • Safer road conditions
  • Enhanced environmental sustainability
  • Habitat for wildlife
  • Minimal maintenance, once trees become established

To find out more or to participate in the Alternative Snow Fencing Program, please call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401).

Melting snow and flood control

If the temperature rises above zero degrees Celsius in a short period of time there is a possibility of flooding as a result of rapidly melting snow and ice. The outcome of maintaining drainage systems is to ensure they function as intended, reducing potential flooding conditions that could present a safety hazard or that could degrade the quality of the infrastructure.

  • It's normal for water to pool around a catch basin in wet weather.  Roads are designed to drain based on the sewer capacity.
  • City crews remove snow and ice from catch basins on roads and sidewalks to ensure melting snow drains when required.
  • Roadside ditches are cleared at the outlet end of the ditch system to provide drainage for the spring melt. City crews prioritize known critical areas in an attempt to minimize the risk of flooding as clearing operations are not designed to drain all ditches of water.

Residents are encouraged to help by clearing snow and ice from catch basins near their homes. Catch basins can be located by a yellow “T” bar painted on the roadway identifying a catch basin close by. To report service issues, please submit an online request.


If you see a pothole that needs to be filled on a City street please make a service request or call 3-1-1.

Potholes are a result of the freeze/thaw weather cycles that deteriorate our road surfaces. During the freeze/thaw, water seeps into the crevices of the road. Fluctuations in temperature, vibrations and traffic volumes all create stress on the asphalt road surface, which can result in potholes.


How you can help

Report potholes and any other road or sidewalk deficiencies by calling 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401).Clear snow on your property. The Use and Care of Roads By-Law No. 2003-498 and Parks and Facilities By-Law No. 2004-276 prohibit the disposal of snow or ice on roadways or in any park. When clearing snow from your driveway or walkway (even if a contractor is doing it for you), snow and ice may not be pushed, thrown or otherwise deposited on the street, sidewalk or park. Anyone charged with an offence may be subject to a fne.Avoid piling snow on fire hydrants when clearing parking lots and driveways.

Do not place metal markers on your property lineThe Use and Care of Roads By- Law No. 2003-498 prohibits the placement of markers on highways, boulevards and residents’ property lines. Snow removal equipment may be damaged by the metal markers and landscape stones. Also, posting these markers at the edge of the road may cause more snow to be placed in the roadway itself. This can create a safety issue. In place of metal markers, you can use wooden markers, which should be no larger than a hockey stick.

Take extra care around snow clearing and removal equipment.

Garbage containers or bags and recycling boxes: To prevent them from becoming damaged place all items at curbside – not on a snow bank or roadway. Do not block the sidewalk.

Avoid winter overnight parking tickets: Between November 15 and April 1 vehicles are prohibited from parking on city streets between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. when Environment Canada forecasts a snowfall of 7 cm or more. This includes any forecast between 5 and 10 cm. (This does not apply to on street parking permit holders). Be in the know about snow.

To help with flood control, open catch basins or drains in front of your property when the weather becomes mild. Itis normal for water to pool around a catch basin in wet weather.  Roads are designed to drain based on the sewer capacity.  Report any service issues by calling 3-1-1.

Safety first: Please ensure children play it safe and stay off snow banks and not dig snow tunnels or trenches that could collapse or be filled in by passing snow clearing or removal equipment.

Report a problem with a road, sidewalk, or pathway (winter)

For all emergency requests call 3-1-1. If this service is not available to you please call 613-580-2400. All other Service Requests will be triaged and addressed as operations allow. 

Please call 3-1-1 if the issue is related to the following:

  • An immediate hazard to people or property
  • Personal accessibility
  • A traffic-related issue (such as traffic signals or traffic signs)

Report a problem with:

Winter road maintenance
Winter sidewalk maintenance
Gravel Shoulder
Area Between Road and Sidewalk (Easement)

For issues regarding general road and sidewalk maintenance (no snow or ice), visit the summer road and sidewalk maintenance page.

Report property damage by city vehicle

While performing City maintenance operations, City equipment may sometimes damage lawns and/or roadside mailboxes.

If your lawn was damaged during winter road maintenance operations, you may report the situation to the City at anytime. The City will investigate these reports in early Spring, once the snow and ice has melted. Areas determined by the City to have been damaged by city vehicles will subsequently be scheduled for repair using topsoil and seed.

If your mailbox was damaged during City maintenance operations, the City will investigate and respond.

You will be required to provide:

  • The street name and number or street name and intersection

Report property damage by city vehicle