Snowy sidewalks mean pile of complaints for city hall

The city's public works committee will get a briefing Tuesday on the progress of the city's snow removal efforts.

Public works committee set to get briefed on snow clearing operations Tuesday

The city says many Priority 1 and 2 sidewalks had to be redone after consecutive snowfalls, causing a delay in getting to some of the Priority 3 sidewalks, which are in residential areas. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

The city's public works committee will get a briefing Tuesday on the progress of the city's snow removal efforts.

The meeting comes after the city received much higher than usual snowfall amounts in December, causing a backlog in snow removal.

"We've had an event that we haven't seen for about 107 years in Winnipeg. We've had almost a whole year's worth of snow in one month and our public works and private contractors have been doing everything they can to catch up," said St. Boniface Coun. Matt Allard, who sits on the public works committee.

So far this winter, about 90 centimetres of snow has fallen in Winnipeg. The average annual snowfall in the city is 114 centimetres.

Allard says most of the snow clearing complaints he's received have been about sidewalks.

"Snow is starting to get compacted and is heavier to move, so these plows that we have less of are actually having to move a little slower than normal," he said.

The city says normally the 2,588 kilometres of public sidewalks are cleared with a regular plow blade but when heavy snow and ice piles up they must use a blower attachment instead.

This method is much slower than simply pushing the snow and the city has a limited amount of equipment to do this type of job.

The city says many Priority 1 and 2 sidewalks also had to be re-done after consecutive snowfalls, causing a delay in getting to some of the Priority 3 sidewalks, which are in residential areas.

But some residents are left wondering why some sidewalks have been cleared and others haven't.

Brandi Baldwin points to where the kids are playing on the snowbanks that cover the sidewalk in front of Nordale School. She worries kids could easily fall into traffic. (Holly Caruk/CBC)
What the same area outside Nordale School looked like in August 2016. (Google Street View)

Norwood Flats resident Brandi Baldwin says many of the sidewalks in her area have been cleared but the sidewalks near Nordale School on Birchdale Avenue are still buried under massive snow banks.

"I've seen kids fall off of them and onto the road and cars have had to stop suddenly. It's really not safe," said Baldwin.

Baldwin says about half the sidewalks on her route to the school have been cleared, the other half are snow-covered, which forces her and her three children onto the road. She says having so many kids using the roadway isn't safe.

"It's a little nerve-wracking, and as a driver it's nerve-wracking too," she said.

"We've had more snow than normal, but I think it should be a priority, especially around a school and a major route to a school, the sidewalks should be a priority," said Baldwin.

Brandi Baldwin and her kids are forced to walk on the road on their way to and from school. Baldwin says the sidewalk here on Coniston Street is completely buried. (Holly Caruk/CBC)
This Google Street View image from August 2016 shows what the sidewalk on Coniston Street looks like. (Google Street View)

Sidewalk talk to take place Tuesday

Sidewalk clearing will be on the agenda at Tuesday's public works committee meeting at city hall. Allard says the meeting is a way of constantly evaluating the city's efforts to see where improvements can be made.

"We're going to be looking at how we might better prioritize the sidewalks, maybe outside of that street prioritization system, because we know people don't move the same way as cars," said Allard.

While Allard acknowledges some of the delay in clearing sidewalks is due to a shortage of the blower-type plows, it's too early to explore whether the city needs to buy more of them.

"There's no guarantee that next year we're going to have the same level of snow as we had this year," said Allard.​

"We want to make sure we are getting the best bang for our buck with the public dollars," he said.

The city says the public works department is working on a report for council about prioritizing sidewalks and active transportation snow-clearing.