Some Saskatoon councillors say the city needs to do a better job grading residential streets.
Normally, only main streets are cleared in Saskatoon. Residential side streets are usually graded only if ruts of six inches or deeper are created on roads.
But this winter's heavy snow has created treacherous driving conditions. Deep ruts and holes mean some streets are almost impossible to drive on. Meanwhile, many vehicles are getting stuck in deep, slushy piles of snow.
And that means some councillors are rethinking the city's policy. During last year's budget negotiations, councillors voted down a proposal to grade residential streets once a year. The plan would have cost taxpayers $600,000 a year and was deemed too expensive.
Now, Ward 5 councillor Randy Donauer says that was a mistake. He says he's been swamped with calls this spring. Last year, he says his constituents told him they weren't interested in spending more money on snow clearing. But now, that's changed.
"Nobody wants tax increases, neither do I, but people are saying let's do this, let's fix this up right. Let's move forward and fix our roads," he says.
Over the next two to three days, the City of Saskatoon will be clearing the worst roads in the following neighbourhoods:
- Confederation Park
- Mount Royal
- Pacific Heights
- Silverwood Heights
Donauer says changing the policy could actually save the city money during heavy snow years. He says months of packed snow have created solid blocks of ice for city graders to clear. It means streets that normally take minutes to clear are now taking hours. He says if residential streets had been graded before now, that wouldn't have happened.
Ward 3 councillor Ann Iwanchuk put forward the original plan to grade the roads. She plans on bringing up the issue during next year's budget deliberations.
"I feel for the residents of Saskatoon, I think this is a really tough situation," she says. "I wouldn't say this was a vindication, I just think that we didn't do our job and we need to do a better job for residents in the upcoming years."
The City of Saskatoon has 22 graders out right now, trying to clear residential streets. City crews are also working to clear ice from catch basins, so melt water doesn't back up.