On May 3, 2018, Ont Reg 366/18 came into force, amending O.Reg 239/02 under the Municipal Act, 2001, SO 2001, c.25 and Reg 612/06 under the City of Toronto Act 2006, SO 2006, c 11, Sch A, which establish standards for the maintenance of municipal highways in Ontario (the "MMS"). First enacted in 2002, the MMS are reviewed and amended every five years.
In keeping with dramatic increases in the numbers of Ontarians cycling, both recreationally and for basic transportation, the most recent amendments to the MMS introduce standards with respect to winter maintenance of bicycle lanes (sections 4.2, 4.3 and 5). The intent is to encourage Ontario municipalities to develop and expand active transportation facilities to meet growing demand without fear of excessive liability risk, through the provision of clearly articulated and achievable maintenance standards.
In addition, climate change is giving rise to fluctuating weather patterns, increasing the frequency and severity of significant weather events. To address this, the recent amendments to the MMS allow a municipality, in its judgment and based on "threshold criteria" for weather hazards set out by Environment Canada, to declare a "significant weather event" during which winter maintenance standards for roads, sidewalks and bike lanes will vary (sections 4.1, 4.3 and 5.1). The recent amendments allow the municipality to communicate the declaration of a significant weather event to the public by posting it on the municipality's website, announcing it via social media, by press release or through a police service (section 16.9).
The most recent amendments to the MMS also introduce inspection standards for encroachments in areas adjacent to sidewalks (and deem the area adjacent to a sidewalk which has been inspected in accordance with the standard to be in a state of repair in respect of any encroachment present (section 16.2(2)). Other amendments include allowing for a visual estimate of the depth and surface area of potholes by municipal staff (section 6(1.2)(b)), the inclusion of utility appurtenances within standards applicable to "surface discontinuities" (section 16(5)); standards for addressing snow accumulation and ice formation on sidewalks (sections 16.4 through 16.6); and representative winter sidewalk patrols (section 16.7).
With these new amendments the MMS have been modernized, and address several key issues currently faced by municipalities in addressing maintenance issues efficiently and effectively.