Caught in unusually bad traffic on 17 Avenue SW Wednesday afternoon, Jay Zwaagstra couldn’t help but wonder about the Calgary’s snow-removal strategy.
“Snow removal, to me, is when you plow the snow to the side on snow routes and then come in with a machine and take the snow away,” he said. “What they’re doing is just pushing the snow to the side, into the parking lane.”
The effect on the busy Beltline thoroughfare, he said, was to effectively reduce traffic to one lane in each direction, as parked cars now occupied travel lanes.
“We’re driving along here and we’re almost a standstill,” Zwaagstra said. “People are cutting down back alleys now because you can’t move.”
His was just one of numerous complaints Calgarians have had with the state of city roads this week, following several days of snow and frigid temperatures.
“It’s clearly the number 1 or number 2 source of citizen complaints – and compliments – throughout the whole corporation,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Wednesday.
The mayor, himself, has acknowledged the snow-control failings in some areas but commended city staff for the job they’ve done under what he described as difficult circumstances.
Calgary’s manager of road maintenance Bill Biensch said recent weather “really was outside the typical storm” and crews have been working hard to clear streets, with a focus on major routes first.
“We’re simply looking at them and making sure they’re passable,” he said. “We’re not removing snow; we’re just trying to allow traffic to move.”
The city puts into motion a seven-day clearing plan when it snows, Biensch added, but with additional snow falling again on Tuesday, the plan was “reset.”
“We are in Day 2 of the seven-day play,” he said Wednesday.
Residential streets are typically tackled beginning on Day 4, Biensch added, but the city accelerated that for some hard-hit northeast communities Wednesday and sent extra equipment to communities like Skyview Ranch.
He said resource-deployment decisions are based on reports from staff on which areas need the most work.
“We actually have foremen out in the field, taking a look at different streets,” he said.