City staff are putting forward several changes to the snow-clearing policy for the upcoming winter season in Edmonton.
Deputy city manager Gord Cebryk said city staff are proposing blading residential areas more often and after large snow events, regardless of the snowpack.
The proposed changes, outlined in reports going to city council next week, also include proactive clearing and higher frequency of clearing when it comes to cul de sacs, instead of waiting for the snowpack to reach a certain level.
“That way we can spread out the service throughout the winter over more parts of the city, thereby minimizing the situations where we get to really bad conditions all across the city,” Cebryk said.
There is also a recommendation for a residential parking ban that would roll out neighbourhood by neighbourhood.
“We’re still looking at the logistics on how that would be implemented, but at this point, what we’re saying is, when we’re clearing, there would be a parking restriction,” Cebyrk said.
However, Coun. Andrew Knack said he doesn’t think the policy goes far enough.
“I’d really like to understand why we wouldn’t make that change immediate across the city going into this winter,” he said.
“What’s the purpose in doing a long-term rollout when we know every community could see better service on residential roads this winter if we simply just said for the 24 to 48 hours that the blading is occurring… we have to have our cars off the street.”
Coun. Ben Henderson said the city needs to do something practical.
“Can we clear all the snow from the neighbourhood roads in the city in 48 hours? No. Expecting people to not park on the road for an indeterminate period of time, understanding we can’t do it that quickly anyway, seems problematic,” he said.
Cebryk said the proposals would fall within the existing budget but city reports indicate the proposed changes could cost an additional $31 million.
No mention of calcium chloride
One thing missing from the reports is mention of the calcium chloride anti-icing program and whether the brine will be sprayed on city roads this upcoming winter.
Council voted 7-6 last year to pause the program after concerns were raised about public trust, infrastructure and the environment. The calcium chloride brine was not sprayed on city roads but was used on sidewalks and active pathways.
Last year, Global News reported about a memo, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, that failed to reach councillors showing the damage calcium chloride could cause to asphalt and concrete.
Global News also uncovered lab data showing calcium chloride and its corrosion inhibitor exceeded stormwater and combined sewer bylaws set by the city. The information, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, raised questions about possible environmental impacts.
Global News asked Cebryk about whether the city would be using the anti-icing again on roadways.
“We are providing an update with information that we have at this point, but we haven’t completed all the data collection and the analysis of the work this winter,” Cebryk said, adding another report on calcium chloride will be presented to council at the end of summer.
Global News then asked whether this upcoming winter would see the absence of calcium chloride on city roads.
“At this point, again, we don’t have any changes planned for the toolbox… no specific changes with respect to the types of materials that we’re using,” Cebryk said.
This is how city councillors are interpreting Cebryk’s comments.
“When I hear that response, it would suggest to me the previous council direction, which said don’t use that on the roads – we can continue to use it on sidewalks and active pathways but not on the roads — that would discontinue on into the next winter unless council directs otherwise,” Knack said.
“I don’t see anything that changed last winter that would cause me to want to change my vote to reintroducing that tool back into our roads.”
Henderson said he would prefer to keep calcium chloride, and all other options for snow clearing, on the table.
“With the kinds of winters we’re getting, there are no other cities I’m aware of that don’t have all of those tools in their toolbox. I think it’s about using the right tool in the right circumstance,” he said.
“I think [Cebryk] feels bound by a vote of council last year. Until, I think, council discusses that again, I think that’s why we need further report on that. He’s taking direction from us.”
City council is expected to discuss the issues surrounding snow clearing next week.