Montreal Heated Sidewalks – Hot or Cold Idea?
In 2015 the City of Montreal announced plans to install heated sidewalks on Ste-Catherine Street and it now appears they will be moving ahead with the project. The first phase will be installed on a 670-metre stretch starting in 2018 and the second phase to start within 2 years will see it expanded to 2.2km, all part of the major revamping of the street between Bleury and Atwater.
The idea should be warmly received by Montrealers, especially those who lived through the 1998 ice storm – albeit heated sidewalks or even fire and brimstone would have been frozen out during that storm.
This past January alone has shown us climate change is real. Experts in the field say the bizarre weather patterns we have been experiencing might mean more freezing rain in the winter. Wouldn’t it be great if someone at the Public Works Department could have called Mayor Denis Coderre this past January 23rd, when the forecast changed from 25cm of snow to almost 10mm of freezing rain and asked, “Hey Denis, can we flip the switch for the sidewalk heaters?”
Then again, if our roads were heated as well, we might not have become globally famous for the epic pile up on Beaver Hall Hill St. last December when two STM buses, a police car, a snow plough and several cars slowly ‘slip-slided’ down the hill – with several coming to a stop to the tune of crunching metal and caught on video for the world to see. In that case, it was not freezing rain but snow that fell and it seems city workers forgot one side of the road. ‘Holy moly… flip the switch! Flip the switch!’ would come the cry from City Hall.
When Ste-Catherine St. is ripped up next year between Bleury and Mansfield, construction of the heated sidewalks is scheduled to begin. Special tubing will be installed underneath the pavement and a mixture of water and glycol, heated by electricity, will flow through it. The system should then be able to heat the sidewalks to 3C, which should be warm enough to prevent snow from accumulating and ice to form – and have the ability to melt snow at 2.5cm per hour at temperatures as low as minus 9C. The city’s estimate for the cost of the first phase of the operation is around $26 million.
City snow removal operations are expensive – with an annual budget of $155 million to cover more than 10,000km in the network. Trucks, plows and over 140,000 tons of rock-salt used during the winter causes damage to sidewalks, roads and the environment. The City is confident the need for less salt will not only have a less harmful impact on the environment, but with less plows also tearing up the pavement, will help to balance out the costs. But there are some critics who are concerned about potential and costly breakdowns to the heating system, as well as the technology being used, installation and operations.
Still, there are many positive ways to look at it. There will be less pedestrians who slip and fall, ending up with concussions and broken bones – which could translate into much fewer visits to already crowded emergency rooms, helping to reduce health costs. And perhaps Montrealers will start heading downtown more often during the winter months, which in turn could bring some badly needed business back to the downtown core, and that means more tax revenue for the City coffers.
In the residential sector, heated driveways, sidewalks and patios are now helping to melt away the ‘snow shovel blues’. Installations of electric, hydronic and radiant heating methods have been increasing, with customized systems available to meet the needs of different clients and relatively easy to install. It is a welcome idea for any North American.
Some Montrealers are concerned that if moderate snowfalls are constantly being melted off our sidewalks, they would miss the pleasure of a ‘winter-wonderland’ stroll. Others welcome the idea of being able to stroll down the city’s main artery without having to worry if their next step will bring them crashing down. And then there are those who are skeptical about the estimated costs.
Should we invest in heated sidewalks? Will it pay off in the long run – or do we actually need better management of our snow and ice removal system? Can any system truly meet the needs of a Montreal winter? Your opinions are ‘warmly’ welcome.
By: Bonnie Wurst – mtltimes.ca