‘We gotta do better’: Sohi blames budget, policy and climate change for bad Edmonton roads

Edmonton’s new mayor says he has heard residents’ complaints about snow and ice clearing, and Amarjeet Sohi promises the city will “do better” going forward.

“I am equally frustrated as all Edmontonians are,” Sohi told reporters on Monday.

“This is about policy. This is about budget. Our staff is working really, really hard. My hats off to all of the people who are out there cleaning our roads and our neighbourhoods.”

Sohi pointed out that Edmonton has been hit with snowstorms, extreme cold warnings, freezing rain and fast warmups this winter, which have all made things a mess on city streets.

The city was under a winter storm warning on Monday as freezing rain in the morning made roads and sidewalks icy. Snow and wind were expected to make the roads worse through Tuesday.

“There are things that are not in the city’s control, particularly the amount of snow we had this year, and also the freeze thaws cycles and the number of them that we’ve had with freezing rain,” he explained.

“This is no excuse. We gotta do better, and I am absolutely committed to asking these questions as we update our snow and ice policy this year.”

Some residents have complained about how the city is plowing in neighbourhoods, creating large windrows which aren’t always piled where they’re supposed to be.

The city had to pause that program earlier this month, because of an unusually bad cold snap.

An audit released in February 2021 recommended 12 changes to the city’s snow clearing policy.

The report said the city had 11,833 kilometres of paved roads to maintain in 2019, and it cost $54 million for plowing, sanding, and de-icing.

But Sohi said that’s clearly not enough, and at least one council colleague agreed.

“Our policy and budget is not matching the realities that we are facing now with climate change and how climate change is causing more temperature fluctuations,” Sohi said.

“I think the city does a good job with the resources that they have,” Coun. Andrew Knack said earlier this winter. “I think the issue is the resources that we have and how far out we’ve spread as a city.”

Sohi promised a “rigorous debate” at council the next time snow and ice clearing is on the agenda.

Last August, a previous version of council ordered a report on “any equipment, staffing and budget changes” needed to improve snow and ice service. That report is due before council on Apr. 25.

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