Mackey lays out how city fights back against storms

Josh Pennell
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Public works director describes systematic plan to remove snow, ice from streets and sidewalks

To start the last City of St. John’s council meeting before Christmas, public works director Paul Mackey gave an overview of the city’s snow-control operation, a day after the first relatively large snowfall for the city.

The fleet and crew

Mackey started by laying out the snow and ice fleet the city has — 40 truck plows, 36 front-end loaders, 6 graders, 18 snowblowers, 4 anti-icing trucks, 20 smaller plows for sidewalks and lanes, and 4 sidewalk salting trailers. There are also three shifts, with 59 operators on each, as well as mechanics and other support staff.

The plan of attack

With the fleet and the crew laid out, Mackey then illustrated how the city tackles a storm like the one that hit Sunday night.

For ice control, they try to do a complete application within three hours.

If the storm dumps 25 centimetres or less, the plows will do a pass on each road within 12 hours of the storm finishing.

Larger storms will take longer for all streets to be done, as operators concentrate on the major thoroughfares, Mackey said.

Major roads get done first, along with thoroughfare streets that have a steep incline.

“Many of the those are in the downtown. ... If they get slippery they become impossible to do,” Mackey said.

Streets with steep grades that have dead ends are up next. If the Metrobus routes weren’t all done in the first priority streets, they are taken care of next, as well as streets adjacent to schools.

After that, whatever streets are left are taken care of and, lastly, there are some private laneways.


“For ice control, we have 28 routes, so we send 28 truck plow sanders — one per route,” Mackey said.

In addition, the city has 47 plow routes and 4 sidewalk plowing routes.

“They generally are streets that are within 1.6 kilometres of schools,” Mackey said of the sidewalk routes.

There are also two salting routes for sidewalks.

“We clear 134 kilometres of sidewalk and salt it,” said Mackey.

There are also the downtown core sidewalks that get done. Mackey pointed out that the city is always making adjustments to the routes, and welcomes feedback from the public.


With regard to winter parking, Mackey said there are three categories.

The first are the areas with signage saying there is no parking from Dec. 1 to March 31. Those are areas that equipment would have a hard time maneuvering around.

The second category is the designated downtown parking areas.

“In those areas you are allowed to park throughout the winter overnight, except when we have a removal scheduled,” Mackey said.

The third category includes the majority of the city, where on-street parking is not allowed from 12:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. nightly. That comes into effect Jan. 8.

“It’s possible it could come in earlier if we get a lot of snow accumulation,” he said.

Mackey pointed out that the city’s website is full of information on where plows are operating and when snow removals are scheduled. He also encouraged people to mark any retaining walls, posts or shrubbery they want operators to take notice of.

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Recent comments

  • Walker
    December 17, 2013 - 08:28

    I do not see why it is so problematic to plow sidewalks. I have lived in this city four years now and never are the sidewalks properly plowed. I walk to and from MUN and during winter months I am forced to walk on the side of the road. When the sidewalks eventually get plowed, a week or two after a storm they are covered in ice and still unfit to walk on. Then by that time more snow falls. People should be able to walk, not drive everywhere.

  • Driver
    December 17, 2013 - 06:06

    Excuses, excuses. I think it's time the city managers went out and actually looked at the poor job being done by the plow operators. It's time the city hired some competent people to operate the equipment, or at least give them an opportunity to actually drive the route they will be clearing before it is covered in a meter of snow. Why in heaven's name do they keep plowing the same piece of road over and over and over again? Why are the intersections of the major highways in such poor condition after a snowfall? And residents of cul-de-sacs are being severely short changed on snow clearing - I bet they don't get a reduction in their taxes because they are last on the list to be cleared and get sub-standard service. As for salt, I drove to work this morning and I would estimate they used about 50 grains of salt for the whole route I travelled which includes a school and hospital. Come on taxpayers - it's time to demand a better snow clearning operation from our city. People should not have to take their lives in their hands when they have to walk to their destinations. Roads should be cleared properly the first time around - it sure would save a lot of time and effort if they took the time and did it right at least on the second pass, after a storm has ended. We have been listening to the same old story every year forever.

    • mark
      December 17, 2013 - 08:43

      about 74 percent of the city is happy with the snow clearing. The snow clearing in St Johns is good. Their is about 900km of streets in the city. Just take your time driving in snow conditions and just relax and let the operators do their job. It takes time and is not magic to get the snow off the roads it takes time...