Edmonton's next snow removal plan may mean more frequent blading

Edmonton's streets could be clearer this winter as the city prepares to step up snow and ice removal operations, city council was told during a meeting Monday. 

Proposed changes include rolling city-wide parking ban during snow removal

The city stopped using calcium chloride last fall after a controversial pilot project. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

Edmonton's streets could be clearer this winter as the city prepares to step up snow and ice removal operations, city council was told during a meeting Monday. 

Gord Cebryk, the city's deputy manager of operations, presented proposed changes on Monday in response to council's request last fall. 

Councillors wanted to see new options after they agreed to stop using salt and the controversial anti-icing agent calcium chloride to help clear roads.

Cebryk's plan includes more frequent snow removal. 

Crews would clear streets on an ongoing basis instead of waiting for five cm of snow to accumulate before blading, which is the current policy.

Cul-de-sacs — which were the focus of much criticism last year — would be cleared three times during the season and after major snowfalls, Cebryk said. 

One of the biggest changes would be a proposed city-wide parking ban.

A parking ban on all streets, including residential areas, would be implemented on a rolling basis as crews are working, Cebryk said. 

"Part of the concept of this ban is that as soon as we're done work, the ban in that particular location is removed and people can park." 

Moving vehicles off streets will be key for crews to do an efficient job, Cebryk said. 

"This is a shared responsibility," he said. "We ask that citizens start thinking about the arrangements they can make to move vehicles off public roads."

The parking ban would require a new bylaw.

Council agreed Monday that administration should start writing that bylaw in time for the fall. 

But Coun. Ben Henderson said it will be a challenge to convince people to heed a parking ban. 

"I'm just assuming that buy-in for this and good behaviour on this will really depend on how we communicate that we're coming in in a specific way." 

Cebryk said city administration is still working on a communications plan, and noted that compliance will be key. 

The enhanced service would cost an estimated $25 million to $30 million; the current snow clearing budget is $60 million.

Under COVID-19 pandemic conditions, Coun. Scott McKeen questioned what the city's priorities are as it re-evaluates service levels under budgetary constraints.

"When I read this report, I wondered whether we can really deliver what we're talking about delivering here," McKeen said. 

COVID-19 has changed travel patterns and perhaps the need for enhanced snow clearing, he suggested. 

"There may be more and more people working from home and fewer people commuting every day." 

Interim city manager Adam Laughlin said administration needs to be flexible with its snow clearing program, as it is with other services. 

"We're going to have to be nimble with our snow removal as well, and regularly check in with those travel patterns and ensure that we are adapting where we need to." 

Laughlin said if council approves the enhanced snow removal it will mean shaving budgets somewhere else. 

"It's got to come with a trade off on something else," Laughlin said. 

"This will be a learning year," Cebryk told council.

After a season under the proposed changes, he said, the city should know better what's needed to enforce the new bylaw.