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Edmonton snow-clearing program: What’s changing and what’s staying the same

The city is aiming to provide “roughly the same” level of snow and ice-clearing service this season as it did last, despite the budget having shrunk.

This year’s $63.3 million budget – including a recent $5 million boost – is $9 million smaller than the 2022-23 allocation.

The parks and roads services department is making several changes to make the dollars go further.

“Last year was tough. We all know it. We recognize the tough conditions,” acknowledged Craig McEwen, the branch manager of the parks and roads services department. “So this year we’re going to be responding to residential areas in real time, looking at various equipment to use to try to avoid any sort of mobility issues in those residential areas, doing more grooming in between those parking bans to try to keep that level surface.”

When asked if the city would be able to maintain last year’s level of service, he told reporters, “We’re going to hire to the resources we’re provided.”

With the extra $5 million, his department has begun the process of hiring 60 more people, who will largely help with manual clearing of areas like bus stops, breezeways, wheelchair ramps and the like.

“The service level on the roadways, roughly similar to what it was last year in terms of days to completion. And on the active pathways, it’ll be roughly the same as well, largely in part due to the money that council recently approved,” McEwen said.

WHAT’S CHANGING

  1. The city has created a 30-kilometre bike lane loop which will be cleared under the Priority 1 schedule. Feeding into what the city hopes will serve as a bike “ring road” are 40 kilometres of Priority 2 segments. The plan was designed with feedback from the bike community, the city says.
  2. The snow-clearing map has been updated. The biggest change will be visible on the roads map, which now features “near real time” GPS data on the location of every piece of active snow-clearing equipment. The city says this will provide more information, and better information, to residents and greater transparency.
  3. Having heard complaints the previous year about unsafe conditions in residential areas, the city will be working to get equipment into neighbourhoods more frequently to maintain the five-centimetre snowpack. Sometimes, residents may see equipment in their neighbourhood outside of a parking ban.
  4. The city is beginning this year to prepare for a change that will be made next year to its sand box program. In 2024-25, the city will only put out 100 sand boxes, rather than the normal 700. However, the boxes will be larger, crews will be able to fill them using equipment, they will be monitored more closely, and they will be located more strategically, the city says. For this year, the city will be putting up six of the future large bins at select eco stations and recreation facilities, but 700 will still be distributed throughout the city.

WHAT’S STAYING THE SAME

  1. Edmonton’s snow-clearing priority schedules and timelines are not changing. Major routes will still be cleared within five days of the end of a snowfall; residential areas, 10 days. As for pathways, city facilities and the bike loop will be prioritized and cleared within one day of the end of a snowfall; sidewalks, bridges, stairs, parking lots, wheelchair ramps within three days; and bus stops and other areas that are cleared manually within 14 days.
  2. City crews are keeping the 2022-23 residential snow-clearing strategy, knowing there were many issues in 2021-22 when the city tried to blade residential streets to bare pavement.
  3. Edmonton will continue to use two phases of parking bans for major roadways and residential areas, respectively. Parking bans will continue to be called with eight hours of notice. Edmontonians can sign up for parking ban notifications online. Bylaw officers will be enforcing bans.
  4. Snow clearing remains a shared responsibility. Property owners are responsible for removing ice and snow on their properties as soon as possible.
  5. Amarsleet Snowhi and Connor McBlade-It have seen their contracts renewed for another season. Additionally, they have a few new teammates. All of the named plows will be visible on the maps.

The snow and ice program’s budget will increase each year of the four-year budget cycle, landing at $69 million in 2026-27.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson

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