This month we’ve received half of our annual average snowfall. In November. It’s not even technically winter yet. I’m doing my best to be excited about it, because we’re embracing our winter city nature. And most Edmontonians seem to be taking it in stride — leaving extra time to get to travel and helping neighbours shovel out.
I am proud of the hard work of city staff, who worked around the clock for more than a week to get the main roads clear after the deep snow started falling two weeks ago. At times the main roads were challenging, but most citizens drove responsibly given the conditions, so we had few accidents.
The side streets are another story.
Edmonton has thousands of kilometres of local roads that get a different level of treatment than the main roads.
Council’s Snow and Ice Control Policy calls for crews to ‘blade’ down to a level snow pack of 5cm or less. Some people like it – some people don’t. Some people say don’t do it because it leaves a windrow of snow across driveways and others say do it down to bare pavement, which would make an even larger windrow. Some say leave it as ‘oatmeal’ because it will pack down and call blading a waste of money.
Welcome to Council’s endless snow dilemma.
The other question is the windrows that are left across driveways in the process. The city’s policy is to try to keep them under 30 cm in height. If they’re over 30cm in height the city will remove them, but this requires different equipment (small loaders rather than the truck plows) which is a considerable expense.
I am not aware of another Canadian city that clears small windrows from driveways. To put things in perspective, some cities even regularly ban on-street parking and then leave large two or three-foot windrows for homeowners to clear themselves as a tradeoff for rapid response
Prior to 2009 we didn’t even do blading on side streets unless the ruts got really bad. Now blading is pro-active so that we’re down to a manageable condition each time there’s a big new snowfall.
Is it a perfect snow policy?
There’s no such thing as a perfect snow policy because conditions vary from one year to the next. Conditions also vary from one end of the city to another. And, of course, citizens have different expectations (and different tires).
So to those citizens whose expectation is perfection, I’m afraid you’re always going to be disappointed.
But, with the policy Council has set and with the resources Council has allocated, city crews will continue to do their best.
If there’s a need to review the policy, and change the resources, Council will do that. But it’ll never be perfect.
Meanwhile, the current blading cycle will be completed sometime this weekend, getting road conditions down to a manageable condition, just in time for the next big snowfall in the forecast.
Update: Here’s a link to the blading schedule Just to be clear – the noted date is the day the blading starts, not when it’s supposed to be done – finishing an entire neighbourhood can then take up to a day.