Feb 21, 2020

It’s Snow-Go for Ice and Snow This Winter Season

This is an update on the City’s verbal report to Council on our 2020 snow and ice strategy.

Part 1: What We Heard From You.

Part 2: What We Know.

Part 3: The Road Ahead.

It’s “SNO-Go” for Ice and Snow this Winter Season

This year my Council colleagues and I have received record numbers of calls, emails, and social media posts from constituents disappointed with snow clearing, sanding of icy intersections along major roadways, and windrows left behind from residential blading – more than any other winter season in my time as the Councillor for Ward 4.

I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. You want to see your tax dollars at work when you step out of your front door. This year’s snow removal program has left many Edmontonians asking “are we getting what we paid for?”

Part 1: What We Heard from You.

Residents are frustrated. And we hear you. This is why today Administration came before Council to provide a verbal status report on the work this far — giving us the opportunity to ask some pointed questions, and to relay the concerns we’ve heard directly from residents. 

Residential blading is being completed as I write this, and I’m happy to say citywide cul-de-sac blading begins Monday. 

What I’m hearing from constituents is that it is the quality of this work that is coming into question. Residents with windrows so high they can’t escape their driveways. People moving their cars for bladers that aren’t showing up. Lack of communication about scheduling leaving cars stranded buried under snow. Entire streets in neighbourhoods being missed, and passageways too narrow to navigate. We need to make sure that the snow clearing matches the plan and the policy, and that it is consistent across ALL neighbourhoods.

Most importantly, the City needs to communicate the work they’re doing with Edmontonians in a clear and accessible way. Operations and communications need to work together. We need to make sure the City isn’t promising what it can’t deliver. Residents want to get back to their lives without having to call into 311 or their Councillor again and again. Frontline workers want to feel that they’re doing a valuable job and making the road safer for everyone. 

Part 2: What We Know.

When a major snow event happens it’s all hands on deck as tools and equipment are diverted to clear Priority 1 and 2 roads, Edmonton’s most travelled, as quickly as possible. This year we experienced significant temperature changes causing extreme freeze and thaw patterns, creating sheets of ice like our city has never experienced. We also had some record cold temperature periods in January. In temperatures below -20 salt cannot melt ice, and sand does not stick to the roads giving the appearance that roads are not being serviced at all. After -20, our ability to adapt is limited to a few tools. Our city is changing, so we need to change how we tackle ice and snow, because it’s clear from what we’ve heard and what we’ve seen that this year’s strategy just didn’t make the grade.

There are things that are out of our control: changes in weather patterns, large fluctuations into high and low temperatures, the amount of roadway we have to clear (currently 12,000 km worth), and the design confines of some of our older more established neighbourhoods to name a few. We need a plan that can adapt and carve around these challenges — not get buried underneath them. We need to use the tools we have to the best of our ability to provide the best level of service possible. That is why I am asking our administration what a full-service snow clearing program would look like. Would we save money? Would residents see value?

Part 3: The Road Ahead. 

Administration has assured us they are committed to returning to Council in June with concrete suggestions and recommendations for a new winter plan for our consideration. What you have said matters. Administration is tracking complaints and calls from both Councillor’s offices and 311 to help frame what they need to reassess for next year.

Warmer temperatures are on the horizon as Edmonton begins it’s slow but sunnier rise into spring. The snow may be melting away, but the pitfalls and failures of this year’s ice and strategy will not. So we make a new plan. Snow removal Winter 2020/21 needs to be about tackling the challenges and the opportunities; serving residents and supporting our workers.

As always, if you have additional questions or concerns about snow and ice care in your neighbourhood, you can connect with me via phone or email at 780-496-8138 or aaron.paquette@edmonton.ca