Edmonton spends a lot of money on snow clearing.
Of course, we can't ignore our winters. The snow has to be dealt with. So why, with a $50 million dollar annual budget - double Calgary's - are so many citizens dissatisfied?
It's a complex matter. So let's set aside complaints for a moment and face some cold facts.
We are a northern city. Our winters can vary wildly from year to year, making budgeting a guessing game. We don't benefit from Chinooks either. The way many of our arterial roadways and neighborhoods were designed means we have to remove snow, rather than just pile it to the side or onto a median boulevard. Those removal and storage costs are a huge part of our winter maintenance budget.
With those challenges how can we make improvements without spending a lot more money?
Here are some ideas.
- Edmonton currently has five snow storage facilities. We need more of those in order to move snow more efficiently and reduce costs, but these cost money as well- around $15 million each. You can't make mountains of snow just anywhere. Sensibly, there are federal environmental laws about this. So, we should press the federal government to help. This is why we leave windrows, because we lack temporary snow storage capacity, again mandated by the federal government. We need a plan for temporary snow storage that eliminates windrows. Windrows are particularly challenging for seniors. This is not a fair practice.
- We need to return to the days of a contingency fund to address extreme budget variances caused by extreme weather. This just makes sense.
- The transportation department needs to continue its study of best practices in other similar sized northern cities. Are our snow removal policies and schedules proven efficient? Do we have the best possible mix of contractors and city owned and operated equipment?
- Finally, as we refurbish older infrastructure and build new neighbourhoods, we need to use design best practices that leave us able to remove snow easily from our roads and sidewalks.
Edmontonians are hardy in the face of winter - no need to make the experience harder than necessary.