Spring Preparedness Operations Update - March 6, 2024

Une équipe de la ville d'Ottawa remplit un nid-de-poule.

With record breaking highs in the Capital over the past couple of weeks, melting snow, rain in the forecast and daylight savings time, everyone is looking forward to spring. Winter isn’t over yet, and the Roads and Parking Services team is working hard on balancing winter operations and preparing for spring maintenance activities.

Street sweeping operations

Street sweeping typically begins as early as the weather will allow, which means temperatures must be above freezing consistently during the day and overnight before operations can fully begin. When the temperature drops below zero, the water we use on the road can form into ice, creating dangerous conditions. These operations are an essential part of cleaning up the transportation network and the team has started preparing and testing equipment as well as developing operational plans. As soon as the temperature consistently remains above zero, crews will be ready, and operations will begin. It’s not time yet, but soon! Stay tuned for more information coming your way next week.

The team must also be ready for a winter weather event, it is March after all, and there remains a possibility of snow or freezing rain in the forecast. It is important that we keep that in mind while preparing for spring maintenance. Did you know that the sidewalk machines used to clear snow are the same machines used to sweep the active transportation network? The blades are replaced with broom attachments and the team must carefully balance preparing for spring operations and what is needed to effectively respond to a winter event.        


This winter has been one that Ottawa has never seen, with only 108 centimetres of snow so far, 117 millimetres of rainfall, 63 freeze-thaw cycles and unseasonably warmer temperatures, the team has been able to steadily work on potholes.

Since January, pothole crews have been working on temporary repairs, over 500 crews have been assigned and filled over 28,500 potholes! This is an increase of 38% compared to last year where the number of potholes filled between January 1 and February 28, 2023, was 17,503.  

How are potholes formed?

Potholes are formed when water (from rain or melted snow and ice) seeps into small cracks or holes in the road. As temperatures drop, the water under the road freezes and expands pushing up on the road above, creating larger cracks – when the temperature rises above zero, the water evaporates and leaves an open space under the road. The weight of cars and trucks travelling over these weak spots breaks the asphalt, resulting in potholes. 

How do we repair potholes?

Potholes are filled by cleaning the hole of debris and water, then packing it with asphalt and rolling or pounding it down. At this time of year, some potholes in high traffic areas may need to be refilled more than once. This happens because water works its way back into the hole preventing the asphalt from forming an adhesive bond with the pavement.

Filling potholes in winter 

In winter, conditions are not ideal for pothole repairs. The unstable conditions, including ice and water in the holes, as well as the cold temperatures and frequent freeze / thaw cycles, prevents the patch from adhering as well to the roadway making the repair temporary. Products that staff use to repair potholes during the winter months are Cold Patch and Warm Mix asphalt.

Cold Patch asphalt is a blended asphalt material which can be stored for extended periods of time. It can be used in all temperatures, does not require special equipment to compact and can be applied directly to the roadway without heating.

Warm Mix asphalt can be used year-round and produced at a lower temperature using different adhesives in the mix. Once the material is heated, the adhesives become thinner allowing improved workability and flow. The material can be manually compacted with a tamper, or shaped and compacted with power plate tampers or rollers.

Next steps

For residents wishing to report a pothole, a service request can be created online.



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Address: 110 Laurier Ave W, Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1