Edmonton hires extra snow-clearing workers, managing price range

Despite having a slightly smaller budget this year, city officials say snowplows are being used more and staff are still striving to meet service standards.

City council granted an enhanced $4.7 million snow-clearing budget adjustment last summer for the remainder of 2022, which was not carried into future years.

Mark Beare, parks and road services director, said that budget change would be managed “internally” within the department to find efficiencies and maintain service levels close to what was promised last year.

“The goal is to maintain the seasonal staff that we brought on, that we trained, that we’ve got out doing the business right now,” Beare said at a media update Thursday.

“The intent is not to change our staffing levels and attempt to deliver on the service standards that we shared at the beginning of the winter.”

Beare does not anticipate any service level decreases next winter.

“We’ve got some really good stability in the program this winter and our goal is to maintain that consistency and build that confidence within Edmonton,” he said.

Following complaints that snow removal did not meet Edmontonians’ expectations, the officials briefed city council last April that a review found service standards were more “aspirational” than “attainable.”

At that time, the city said only around 57 per cent of sanders and plow trucks were being utilized due to staff shortages.

Val Dacyk, general supervisor of infrastructure operations, said that figure has improved to 80 per cent, with about 100 plows available for use.

“There are more staff available this winter so we have more plows on the road,” Dacyk added in a statement to CTV News Edmonton.

“This increase in utilization has also placed increased demand on maintenance teams. There is a lot of collaboration happening within City Operations to decrease any equipment downtime and optimize crews.”

WINDROW CLEARING THE FOCUS

With little snowfall in the past week, crews are concentrating on clearing windrows on main roads, with a parking ban or temporary restrictions likely to come in the future.

Dacyk said the focus for snowplows is on maintaining road and active pathway conditions so Edmontonians can move around safely and enjoy the warmer temperatures.

“While Edmonton has not seen a lot of new snow, the city has been actively working to remove windrows when necessary,” she said Thursday at a media update.

“We are also continuing to monitor residential areas as warmer weather has softened the snowpack causing some challenging conditions.”

Right now, windows on arterial and collector roads are being prioritized, as well as along bus routes or within Business Improvement Areas. Priority is given to windows that are eating into driving lanes or blocking access points.

In residential areas, windows are removed if they are blocking driveways and curb cuts, Dacyk added.

According to her, crews are waiting to initiate residential grooming until temperatures drop slightly below minus five Celsius to ensure ruts are smoothed out. If crews were sent out now, Dacyk says plows would just create bigger ruts or windrows.

Once conditions are right, a Phase 2 parking ban might be called, Dacyk said, and temporary restrictions implemented to give plows room to work. She recommended signing up for parking ban alerts or watching for temporary signs.

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