Mayor muses about boosting snow-removal budget

It's worth adding a few million dollars to Calgary's snow-clearing budget if it cuts minutes from drivers' commute times, said the city's mayor, fresh from a snowy, extended morning drive to work.
Eight cars were tangled in a fender bender on Home Road on Tuesday. ((CBC))

It's worth adding a few million dollars to Calgary's snow-clearing budget if it cuts minutes from drivers' commute times, said the city's mayor, fresh from a snowy, extended morning drive to work.

Mayor Dave Bronconnier, whose regular 15-minute commute took more than an hour amid snowfall and slick roads on Tuesday morning, said he'll be lobbying council to consider more money for snow clearing during budget deliberations next month.

"Putting more equipment on the road of course comes with additional cost, but I think sometimes the cost is well worth the additional benefit even if it's 10, 15, 20 minutes of your commute time," he told reporters.

"I think it does need to be topped up with a few extra million dollars."

City crews did well with 70 sanders hitting the roads by 4 a.m., which was an "adequate" response considering the resources at hand, Bronconnier added.

The mayor did not say if more funding for snow removal would mean paying more property taxes or cutting budgetary items elsewhere.

Crashes caused by tailgating

The city dispatched its full complement of equipment and crews on Tuesday afternoon to make roads less treacherous for drivers after a morning full of collisions and slow driving conditions.

An Arctic air mass that brought record cold temperatures across parts of Alberta on Monday left snow and ice on city streets on Tuesday morning.

About 180 collisions happened in the city between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Tuesday, with 11 involving injuries of some kind. EMS officials described the icy roads as "brutal."

EMS spokesman Adam Loria said many of the collisions are related to people tailgating causing pileups on the roads, but no serious injuries were reported.

There were reports of icy conditions and traffic slowness along Deerfoot Trail/17th Avenue S.E., Deerfoot/Douglasdale Boulevard and Sarcee Trail/Bow Trail S.W.

City Hall braces for angry calls

Snow has steadily been falling in Calgary since about 1 a.m., according to Environment Canada's website, with about two centimetres expected to accumulate by late morning.

Calgary traffic slows on a snowy Country Hills Boulevard on Tuesday morning. ((Submitted by Gabriel Yee))

The city said 70 of its vehicles were applying salt as well as a sand-salt mixture for better traction on major Calgary roads in the morning, but by afternoon, the full fleet had been dispatched. Crews were also manually working on steps, walks, overpasses and the downtown pedestrian malls.

City Hall is bracing for a flood of calls from angry commuters over road conditions.

Ald. Ric McIver said he noticed a lack of gravel on the roads on Tuesday morning.

"I also, right on Macleod Trail on Cemetery Hill, along with six or eight other cars, ruined my wheel covers on the right hand side of the car because ... [the] cars in front of me, they all slid off into the side because it was sheer ice and even without the wheels turning, the vehicles were sliding straight sideways."

Tire shops bustling

Temperatures continued to hover around –7 C on Tuesday morning and with a chance of light snow in the forecast until into the evening, officials said roads are expected to remain slippery.

Loria advised drivers to give themselves lots of time to reach their destinations and to give other vehicles extra space on the roadways.

Bob Pelzer, who owns Kensington Auto, said Tuesday has been filled with demands for winter tires.

"We're doing tires most of the day today — not doing any of the mechanical, just try and get as many tires as we can switch over as possible," he said. "This is a little early for a lot of people. Yes, they could have done it sooner, but the big issue then is if we do hit warmer weather, the winter tires can wear out quicker."

Pelzer said the winter tire inventory in Alberta is down this year because many were shipped to Quebec where new legislation has made winter tires mandatory.