Over the last few weeks, our office has received hundreds of emails from community members sharing feedback about their experiences with snow and ice control, specifically with windrows. This has been the most commonly cited concern from constituents recently, and I agree that our approach needs to shift.
The current City policy is to not clear windrows from residential areas, unless they are over 30cm and block a driveway. This year, additional blading and heavy snowfall have lead to very large windrows that pose a serious challenge to mobility on residential roads.
While I recognize that there isn't one perfect solution, I don't think the current approach is quite right. My highest priority in this discussion is to look at our snow and ice program through the eyes of seniors, folks with limited mobility, and vulnerable road users. I also want to make sure we deliver the best service possible while still achieving good value for tax dollars.
To lessen windrow impact, I believe we need to have the following discussions:
We need to evaluate the proper level of blading so we aren't making matters worse with residential service. Residential roadways used to have a 10cm snowpack, more recently a 5cm snowpack, and this year we've been blading to bare roadway on residential streets. Given the freezing rain and snowpack, large ruts can form and affect safety, and while blading them away resolves this, the trade off can be large windrows, which have become problematic and create accessibility issues in our communities.
We need to evaluate windrow removal. While previous councils deemed full windrow removal too expensive and even economically infeasible, I believe we need to look at situations where it makes sense (i.e. access points to allow for street parking and pedestrian mobility).
Last Friday, the City began a windrow removal trial in the Griesbach neighbourhood to gather more information about what it would take to offer different levels of windrow removal service.
With this information, Council will be able to have an informed discussion about windrow removal, instead of writing it off.
We need a better solution to clear drainage infrastructure. The City is working with EPCOR on this, as not properly clearing catch basins has impacts for EPCOR's drainage management. During the few warmer days we've already had, drainage concerns are already arising.
We need to explore better communication regarding when residents should move their vehicles from front streets. This is the only way to increase compliance with the parking ban. Enforcement has not been comprehensive, but I don't think that more enforcement alone will solve this problem. We need better communication about when crews are entering a neighbourhood, so folks have a reasonable chance to comply.
A lack of clear information feeds non-compliance, which continues the cycle by slowing down residential operations further. I have heard plenty of suggestions for better communication, including more signs, more accurate maps, electronic notifications, even using the WasteWise app that many Edmontonians use for reminders about their waste pickup schedule. I will be bringing all these suggestions to Council discussions.
I am continuing to listen to all of the feedback provided by community members in Ward Métis and will use this to inform my approach to Council's review of snow and ice policies and procedures this spring (April). This discussion will include any equipment, staffing and budget changes required to increase the standard with a greater emphasis on safety, efficiency and connectivity.
As part of this discussion, Council has asked for feedback from the Accessibility Advisory Committee, Edmonton Transit Service Advisory Board, the Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council and the Women's Advocacy Voice of Edmonton Committee. These perspectives will help inform our discussion about changing service levels.
Ultimately, everyone deserves to move around our city safely in all seasons. Edmonton's 11,000 km road network presents a significant challenge, and decisions between blading, windrow collection, response time, parking bans and more have significant cost and process implications. This will be a conversation about trade-offs, our unpredictable weather and changing climate, cost, service level priorities, safety, and ultimately, equitable mobility. I have heard your concerns, and I look forward working with my council colleagues to putting in place the changes necessary to improve our performance.
Feel free to reach out to my office with your thoughts: email@example.com
Written by: Ashley Salvador