July 23rd, 2024

SPC hears report on snow control

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on June 28, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

New City plowing practices and the impact of significant snowfall caught some residents off guard, the Governance Standing Policy Committee of city council heard Thursday in a report.

Transportation Operations manager Juliane Ruck and Transportation GM Darwin Juell presented a Phase 2 information update to the SPC which met in council chambers at City Hall.

The SPC consists of councillors Belinda Crowson, Jenn Schmidt-Rempel, John Middleton-Hope and Rajko Dodic.

The report says snow and ice control service level changes were implemented during the 2023-24 winter season. Administration gained a better understanding of the cost difference between plowing and removal with the Phase 2 changes showing that for every snow event it’s 25 times to cheaper to plow snow to the right rather than remove it.

The SPC voted unanimously to recommend council direct Administration to implement the first of three options presented in the report – namely on a trial basis in the 2024-25 winter season that plowing to the right with windrow subscription openings be done with a report being given to council in the spring of 2025 with the results of the three-year trial of snow and ice control service level changes.

The subscription service would be free of charge to needy residents who can’t clear windrows themselves.

The average cost per household for the windrow program is estimated to be $50-$70 with the service having to be tendered. Clearing would be done for one vehicle per household.

A PowerPoint presentation shown to the SPC stated that plowing costs $258 per kilometre making it more cost efficient than snow removal which costs $6,766 per km.

The top four driveway and parking lane issues with residents were:

1, Windrows along curbs created a barrier to accessing sidewalks.

2. Parking lanes were not cleared well enough when vehicles were not moved.

3. Windrows challenging to remove.

4. Their driveway was inaccessible due to windrows.

Snow routes were activated five times last winter and windrows created along driveways and curbs were an issue for people living on those routes, says the report with the main challenges being shovelling, access to driveways and accessibility to parking.

Ruck told the SPC the events in January, February and late March were particularly heavy with the latter having an accumulation of 40 centimetres of snow.

During these events the City plowed 81 kilometres of snow routes. It initiated Priority 1 snow removal on Jan. 16-18 and Feb. 3-4 and Priority 1 and 2 removal on March 21-15. Contract graders were mobilized to assist City efforts during the March event.

Regarding changes, the report states “as with any change, most people don’t notice or pay attention until the change is happening. Concerns included difficulties shoveling snow from end of driveways, difficulties parking and navigating windrows at the curb, pedestrian safety at crosswalks, stormwater drainage, and side street/alley access. Community members concerns about access for emergency services and overall mobility were issues that became prominent during Phase 2.”

The report states that different communities use a variety of approaches for dealing with windrows with some making it the entire responsibility of homeowners while others provide a service to impacted residences opening the windrows when resources allow that to happen while others offer a subscription service.

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