Roads & Street Maintenance
To report a street or traffic light malfunction, or other road maintenance concern, please contact the Infrastructure Services Department at 780-778-2273.
If you have questions regarding maintenance or safety of Highway 43 and 32 please contact Ledcor at https://ledcorhighways.com/contact-us/.
Preventing road damage by weight restrictions
We need weight restrictions to prevent damage to the Town of Whitecourt roads.
In the spring, frozen roads start to thaw. During spring, roads are weakened by excess water in the road base and can be damaged by heavy vehicles. The thawing water may not drain out of the gravel that is under the pavement. This is because the surrounding soil may be frozen or too solid. The water will soak into the gravel. When the water is absorbed, the road will temporarily lose strength. When this happens, the road cannot support heavier vehicles. Gravel roads are more vulnerable or susceptible to damage.
When road bans are in effect, vehicle loads are restricted to 75% per axle weights in accordance with the provisions of the Town of Whitecourt Bylaw 1564. Please watch for and obey signage.
Do you have questions about the road ban and/or road use permits? Contact Kamruz Zaman, Director of Infrastructure Services at 780-778-2273 ext. 120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know?
During snow season our crews are ready to clear local roads as quickly and effectively as possible. We maintain the following:
- 130 lane kilometres of roads;
- 16 public buildings and facilities;
- 43 transit bus shelters/pads/stops;
- 8 kilometres primary priority pathways and 6 kilometres of secondary priority pathways;
- 4 outdoor rinks;
- Rotary Park pond;
- public facilities parking lots;
- 8 sewer lift stations;
- water intake; and
- Water Treatment Plant
In total, Whitecourt employs 6 operators to clear roads and 9 staff members to maintain pathways and facilities during the winter months. We appreciate residents’ patience and understanding as we work to maintain and clear local infrastructure.
Snow & Ice Control
The Town of Whitecourt utilizes a variety of snow clearing and ice control methods to keep Whitecourt roads and walkways safe.
Snow & Ice Control Practices
The Town's initial action is to spread sand at intersections and slippery locations. This is followed by clearing (plowing), and removal of snow in limited areas. These activities take place seven days a week, at all hours that staff and equipment are available.
Road and sidewalks are done in a priority order to maximize safe travel for the greatest number of users.
Major arterial roads and collector roadways, to give good access to within a few blocks of most areas and allow school bus operations.
Downtown business district, to allow owners time in advance to clean adjacent sidewalks.
Residential or local roadways.
For information on the current snow removal schedule and other road information, follow Whitecourt on Facebook.
Many of our neighbours have difficulty removing the snow from their driveways and sidewalks. If you would like to help a senior or an individual with physical difficulties, become a Snow Star! Call Community Services at 780-778-6300. If you NEED this service please call Community Services, 780-778-6300, to have your name placed on our registry.
All property owners are responsible for clearing snow and ice from public sidewalks adjacent to their property before the first residential plowing by Town forces. Once plowing begins, Town crews will plow snow onto sidewalks.
If Town forces place snow on sidewalks adjacent to your property, you are not required to clear it. If you live in a cul-de-sac or an area where there are only sidewalks on one side of the street, you may be required to clear snow every year. Reference the Directional Movement map above, or check with the Infrastructure Services Department, to find out if you have to clear your sidewalk this winter season.
Once Town crews remove snow from your sidewalk the resident is then responsible to clear it again or until snow is plowed back on the sidewalk. This is taken from Bylaw 1245 section(4) “if the Town, in the course of its snow and ice control activities, places snow or ice on a sidewalk, the owner or occupier of the adjacent parcel of land is exempt from paragraph II(1),(2) and (3) above until such time as the snow and ice are removed by the town or natural occurrence.”
In residential areas, sidewalks must be cleared within 48 hours of the end of a snowfall.
In the downtown commercial area, sidewalks must be cleared within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall.
Sidewalks should normally be cleared of snow and ice for the entire finished width, to the finished surface.
The Town of Whitecourt provides a mix of salt/sand for local residents and businesses to use on area sidewalks (this product is not available to contractors). A green bin is located at the Whitecourt Legion parking lot (in downtown Whitecourt along 52 Avenue) with the salt/sand for free pickup - please bring your own bucket. (Maximum 20 kilograms or 45 pounds per week per household or business.)
Please note that Bylaw 1475 prohibits the use of snow-clearing devices powered by an engine in residential areas before 6:00 a.m. on weekdays or Saturdays, and before 9:00 a.m. on Sundays or statutory holidays.
Snow & Ice Control Frequently Asked Questions
Winter road maintenance is completed on a roadway priority basis in the following order (as listed in Policy 31-009 - Snow and Ice Control):
- First priority - major arterial and collector roadways, to give good access to within a few blocks of most areas.
- Second priority- downtown business district, to allow owners time in advance to clean adjacent sidewalks.
- Third priority – Whitecourt Transit bus routes.
- Fourth priority - residential or local roadways.
- Fifth priority - industrial roads, due to the nature of the traffic and occupancy type.
- Lanes are only done when conditions become almost impassable, considering also the narrow width and impacts on operations.
- Fire hydrants, accesses to essential service areas or facilities, public use areas and buildings, and public parking lots, will be done in conjunction with other priority areas as deemed necessary by Infrastructure Services. Roadways without designated priorities or requiring special attention will be done as deemed necessary by the Infrastructure Services Department.
No. Roads are plowed based on the priority basis. First priority roads are those with the highest volume of traffic such as Dahl Drive, Mink Creek Road, 51st Street, Sunset Boulevard, Caxton Street and Kepler Street etc. Second priority roads in the downtown business area that have less traffic than first priority roads, and so on.
When snow continues to fall over a long period, plows may not be able to immediately clear local residential and less-travelled roads as they must continue working to ensure major roads (priority 1) and transit routes (priority 3) are clear.
When snow accumulations make it necessary, the Town clears snow overnight to ensure roads are ready for morning rush hour. Snow clearing operations are more efficient at night when there is little road traffic and no cars parked on the streets. When it's snowing, we're going!
Plow operators do not intentionally block driveways. With over 2,500 driveways, it is not practical for plow operators to lift their blades at every driveway. The plow operator also has limited control over the amount and direction of snow that comes off the plow.
Once the plow has completed clearing the road, a crew will follow to clear windrows that are over 30cm in height left in front of driveways. Driveways will be cleared to a maximum width of 6.0m. Where a property does not have a street fronting driveway access, a sidewalk opening will be cleared.
Snowplows clear streets from the center of the street to the curb – sometimes leaving snow across private driveways. This cannot be efficiently prevented. If a windrow is left that is in excess of 30cm in height, a crew will be by to clear it from in front of your driveway. Driveways will be cleared to a maximum width of 6.0m.
When snowplows move around a bend in the street, the turning motion of the vehicle has a funnel effect on the snow coming off the end of the plow. This results in a build-up of snow being unavoidably deposited in driveways beside curves in the road. Greater amounts of snow are also deposited in yards beside street corners.
On occasion, snowstorms can last for a number of hours. A lengthy snowfall or a variety of precipitation conditions (freezing rain, ice etc.) requires snow crews to re-plow priority routes to keep them safe for heavier traffic before moving onto fourth priority routes (residential streets).
We have over the last few years been doing the residential removal by starting in the Hilltop on the east side one year if we need to do another removal in residential we would move to the valley and start on the east side. The next year we would start Hilltop west and work to the east side. We keep alternating from one to the other and systematically go across the town. We have to sign some streets and tow because there is no room to put the snow. This also adds to the complexity of trying to give 24 hours notice to residents, as well as having the crews at that location at the appropriate time and not just jumping around too much.
Cul-de-sacs require at least four machines to complete effectively. One loader with a plow to peel the cul-de-sac, one loader to load and two trucks to haul the snow away. As per our past experience, it takes longer to clean a cul-de-sac than it takes to clean a street.
Newer subdivisions have "mountable" or dropped curbs, which make it easy for builders to place driveways anywhere on a given lot – but also make it difficult for snowplow operators to determine the edge of the curb. Night-time plowing and heavy weather make assessing the curb even more challenging. If an operator gets in too close to the curb, the plow can damage boulevards and lawns. Operators err on the side of caution.
To deal with heavy snowfall, cul-de-sac clearing is performed in two steps: first, the snowplow will clear the cul-de-sac to open up the roadway, then, after it has stopped snowing, it will come back to clean up. During the clean-up phase, remaining snow is pushed either to the center of the cul-de-sac or is removed completely, depending on room for snow storage. Never let your children play in these snow piles – it is not safe.
The Town must remove the snow from the travelled portion of the road. On a two-way street where there is only parking on one side, the plow operator cannot push the snow away from the parked car into oncoming traffic, as it would create a hazard and liability. Snow is always pushed away from oncoming traffic. When heavy snowfalls are predicted, residents are asked where possible not to park on the roads. This is done to reduce the chance of plowing in parked vehicles, eliminating the chance of damaging vehicles and allowing for a more efficient plowing operation.
The snow pack is hard-packed snow on a roadway. It is the condition that can be expected periodically on residential roads. Snow pack develops very quickly as vehicles travel on snow-covered roads. Snow plows are not able to scrape off snow pack as it is usually bonded to the pavement. Although bumpy at times, vehicles typically navigate snow pack quite easily. Under snow pack conditions, some rutting can be expected. The Town will take steps to improve conditions when warranted.
Arterial roads are those with the highest speeds and greatest volume of traffic such as Dahl Drive, Pine Road and 51st Street. Collector roads, such as 51st Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, are roads that have less traffic than primary roads, but also have bus routes and generally lead to primary roads. Residential roads have much less traffic than primary or secondary roadways. Some seemingly residential roads are classified as secondary due to high traffic volumes, the presence of facilities such as schools, or due to hills and valleys. Download the Route Priority Map on this webpage to see all primary, secondary and residential roads.
Residents and drivers can help by doing the following:
- Be patient. In heavy snow falls, it takes crews longer to get all streets clear.
- Stay alert, slow down, and stay in control when driving your vehicle.
- Leave room for plows. When you see the amber flashing lights on the winter maintenance equipment, remain a safe distance behind them. Also, never pass a snow plow. This is an extremely dangerous practice. Keep parked cars off streets wherever possible.
- Shovel your sidewalk. Town Bylaw 1245 requires all residents to clear the snow from sidewalks adjacent to their property. Keep fire hydrants clear and visible.
- Throw snow on your lawn, not on the street. Shoveling snow back onto the street creates unsafe road conditions for motorists and is prohibited by the Bylaw 1245.
To achieve bare pavement, salt must be applied at the onset of snow so that a layer of salt brine is maintained between the road surface and accumulating snow (to prevent bonding). In order to provide this level of service to residential roads, significant increases in equipment and salt would be required, with increased costs and environmental impact. The Town, as well as other Canadian road agencies, are required to have a Salt Management Plan to manage salt use and minimize environmental impacts. It would be very unusual for a municipality subject to winter climate conditions, such as Whitecourt, to consider a snow packed road surface as unacceptable for local residential roads.
Salting is used to control winter road conditions. It is important to prevent snow or ice from bonding with the road surface. Therefore, salt vehicles are used on primary streets on a regular basis during inclement weather. When snow accumulation is over 6cm, plows will then be deployed to clear snow off the roads. The Town's goal is to keep major routes as bare as possible (i.e. down to the hard pavement). The salt-sand mix used by Whitecourt is 3% for ice control measures. If temperatures allow or icy conditions are present we will add extra salt to help combat icy conditions. Salt only works effectively to approximately -150C.
Priority routes are completed within a 12-hour period. If there is a prolonged snowfall, or complicated weather patterns (freezing rain, heavy snowfall, cars parked on the road etc.) clearance times can be affected. In addition, Alberta’s Employment Standards Code sets out the maximum allowable daily working hours and include mandatory rest periods. An employee can work a maximum of 12 hours per day, unless an exception occurs and Employers must provide at least 8 hours of rest between shifts. During prolonged snowfalls, crews are required to rest before they are able to work again.
During our snow removal days in which we haul snow from our priority routes it takes anywhere between 14 to 40 man-hours to put out signs and about half the time to take them up. The Town gives a minimum of 24 hours notice to move vehicles off the street (upwards of 96 hours). Despite our effort to let people know through social media, electronic message boards and our Town website, we still end up towing between 40 and 50 vehicles on the Hilltop removal and 70% get towed and all receive fines. These fines take our enforcement staff a minimum of 4 hours to ticket and tow. Then 12 to 15 hours of processing these tags and tows.
Due to the shape and varying size of courts, elbows and cul-de-sacs, specialized equipment is needed to remove snow in these areas. These areas will be serviced once primary and secondary routes are completed.
Town staff sometimes use courts, elbows and cul-de-sacs to store snow during snow events. We apologize for the inconvenience and understand that this can be frustrating for those that live in the area. Town staff continue to review the snow removal process in an effort to minimize and reduce delays that occur in clearing these areas.
The Town has over 45 cul-de-sacs, 20 elbow streets and 7 dead ends road.
Snow that gets removed from roads is trucked to one of five snow storage sites (there are 4 identified emergency snow dump areas should a snow season require additional storage areas).
- Outdoor skating rinks are open as weather conditions permit. The Town of Whitecourt requires approximately one week of below zero temperatures to prepare the rinks.
- Four outdoor rinks are maintained by the Town of Whitecourt between mid-November and March. The rinks are located at Central School, Percy Baxter School, Southland Park and St. Joseph School. In addition, there are a number of smaller neighbourhood rinks located throughout the community.
- Rotary Park has a pond (illuminated by street lights at night for your enjoyment) that is cleared for winter recreational use. Keep an eye out for special events scheduled during the winter at the pond in Rotary Park.
Experience, skills and care are required to safely maneuver plow blades through traffic and around parked cars while ensuring streets are cleared in a timely manner. Snow removal is at its maximum when streets have little to no traffic and are cleared of parked cars. This is why the majority of snow clearing is done during the evening and overnight. After primary streets are completed, crews will tackle secondary routes.
Parked cars on the street affect snow clearing procedures. Any vehicle found on any roadway during No Parking Signs up starting 12:00am will be subject to a fine as this interferes with the clearing of snow. Plows will not be sent back to areas where cars were previously parked.