City committee shown where sidewalk snowclearing will be expanded

Dave Bartlett
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This week, the city of St. John's public works committee was shown where sidewalk snowclearing has been done and where it will be expanded this year after council approved $250,000 more for the service in its 2012 budget. The red lines are routes which were previously done, the blue are the new streets, or sides of streets, that will now be plowed and the green represents the area cleared by the Downtown Development Commission. - Image courtesy of the City of St. John's

Advocates of sidewalk snowclearing in the city of St. John's were pleased when the city almost doubled the money used to pay for the service in its 2012 budget.

This week, council agreed to add $250,000 to the annual budget for sidewalk snowclearing and an additional $450,000 for three new sidewalk snowclearing machines.

The first pot of money will be used to hire six new snowclearing operators and pay for additional salt and other associated costs.

On Thursday, at the city's public works committee meeting, councillors were shown a map which detailed where the sidewalks have been cleared in recent years and where the service will be expanded.

Last year, the city cleared two approximately 50-km long routes for a total of 101 kms of sidewalk. This year, the city will clear four shorter 33 km routes for a total of 132 kms of sidewalk as well as some Metrobus stops on multi-lane streets.

Metrobus currently shovels out bus shelters.

City staff said shorter routes mean sidewalks will be cleared more quickly than the longer ones were.

But staff also pointed out that the city cannot afford to clear every sidewalk in St. John's and that it will still take time, after a major snow fall, to get the sidewalk machines in action.

Ward 2 Coun. Frank Galgay warned that the new money, and the enhanced service, will not be "the new Jerusalem" nor the "panacea" for those who believe the city must clear all sidewalks.

It was also noted that there are some streets where sidewalk snowclearing is impractical due to their geography, incline and obstacles such as parking meters and utility poles.

A few routes which were cleared last year won't be cleared anymore, either because it was found they weren't used very often or they no longer meet the city's criteria for sidewalk snowclearing.

One example is Beaumont Street in the city's centre. That street's sidewalks were plowed before because I.J. Samson school was on that street. But the school is now closed.

The original criteria for sidewalk snowclearing concentrated on areas within a one-mile radius of a school.

Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary also asked that the city encourage people who live on streets where sidewalks won't be plowed to pitch in by shovelling the sidewalks in front of their homes. O'Leary noted that in many Canadian cities a bylaw makes homeowners responsible for those sidewalks.

Ward 1 Coun. Danny Breen suggested the city hold a public meeting, or a series of public meetings, to show people what will be cleared, answer their questions and inform people about the realities of sidewalk snowclearing, including how much it costs and why it sometimes takes time to begin the work following a storm.



Organizations: I.J. Samson school

Geographic location: St. John's, Jerusalem, Beaumont Street

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Recent comments

  • Wayne Hebb
    January 04, 2012 - 18:34

    Residential sidewalk clearing is not the issue in St. John's. Most residential areas have wide streets and are low traffic areas which do not pose a hazard for pedestrians. It is when you are walking in the heavy traffic areas where snow clearing is the issue. When sidewalks are piled high with ice and snow you are forced to walk in the street very close to to traffic. That's where sidewalk snowclearing is important. If you don't believe me just take a walk down Torbay Road after the next snow storm.

  • Downtown Resident
    January 04, 2012 - 14:31

    Just shovel a walking path you people! I do mine, and help my neighbours as they do the same. Somehow we find a place to put the snow until the big clearing takes place. It is not like we've had THAT much to shovel in the past 3-years! The worst ones for putting snow on the sidewalk are.... City monitored parking lots downtown - Check out Prescott St. next snowfall.

  • Kate
    January 04, 2012 - 11:33

    It boggles my mind how frequently "Homeowners should shovel the sidewalks in front of their homes! They legally have to in other places!" is brought up in these discussions. We have more snow than these other places. It is simply not possible for those with smaller lawns (or no lawn at all). Not to mention the health risks of shoveling are bad enough without trying to throw the snow up an extra ten or fifteen feet.

  • Lena
    January 04, 2012 - 10:42

    Do people seriously believe that it's "impossible" to get people to shovel snow in front of their own homes? Come on, folks -- all it takes is a bylaw to that effect, requiring residents to clear snow within 12 hours after a snowfall. Period. Don't clear, get fined. Get fined too many times, get extra charges. Provision can be made for low-income residents or the elderly; register their names on a list and dispatch contracted employees to clear those areas. Between residents themselves and the city, we should be able to get rid of every scrap of snow on sidewalks. "We've never done it that way" is NOT a reason or an excuse. Let's get started today to create a city that's safe to get around.

  • Megan
    December 25, 2011 - 21:36

    WOW. Just Wow. Wake up city counsel! If I sprain my ankle again like I did last year trying to walk on your sidewalks only to be forced onto the road where I was then forced to climb up a 7 foot wall of snow by a disgruntled snowplow driver, who just WOULDN'T go around me despite there being no snow on the road he was on, and therefor further injuring myself, I WILL be looking into a class action lawsuit against you!!! I am not going to spend my winter limping around again just because you guys are too cheap and lazy to come up with a viable solution!!!!!!

  • Anna
    December 19, 2011 - 11:47

    How are we supposed to do that Ms. O'leary, my arms can only reach so far and the 10 ft snowback the city plows in front of my house won't help. It all sounds nice on paper, shovel in front of your house but in St. John's it won't work.

  • Max
    December 17, 2011 - 09:46

    Residents shovelling the sidewalks in front of their homes is not feasible. The snowplows and blowers (when they make it around) pile the snow on the sidewalks/lawns - try shovelling that stuff!! Even snowblowers buck and kick trying to beat their way through it. Not to mention the often heavy wet snow that we get here on the Avalon - snowblower manufacturers should be testing their machines here.