The City of Surrey is reviewing its snow and ice clearing policies after what has been a record breaking winter so far.
During a 44-day cold snap from Dec. 4 to Jan. 16, temperatures in Surrey were at or below zero degrees Celsius, the longest duration of freezing temperatures since 1984. And the weekend brought yet more snow.
In a report to council Monday night, Surrey’s general manager of engineering Fraser Smith wrote that it took the city 10 days to start servicing residential roads, based on priority, after the first snow fall (factoring in things like waste collection days, steepness and potential medical concerns).
“In order to service residential streets to the same levels of service provided on first and second priority routes, the city would need to significantly increase its equipment, resources and implement fundamental changes to on-street parking,” Smith noted.
In many Canadian cities where local roads are plowed, parking is typically limited to one side of the street during winter, allowing for safe passage of snow plows.
Also, it would be more expensive, Smith’s report notes, because snow plows would have to slow to less than 20 kilometres per hour for safety reasons on local roads, making it four to five times more costly per lane kilometre than high-priority roads.
That would mean snow clearing costs would increase from $3.5 million to $9 million for the same level of service. The report says given the higher costs associated with that approach, and the low frequency of long cold snaps, investing in new equipment or engaging in contractors is not recommended.
City staff are also reviewing the possibility of increased enforcement during major snowfalls, and in the possibility of taking on the task of clearing of certain sidewalks and walkways, in the interest of public safety.
Staff will report back to city council later this year after the review is completed.
See also: VIDEO: Ice skating on Surrey streets
Overall, Smith said snow-clearing staff responded well this winter, but city hall received a high number of service demands for local road clearing. And, many businesses and home owners didn’t clear their sidewalks, resulting in even more calls.
As of Jan. 16, the city issued 81 fines for not clearing snow (49 commercial, 32 residential). “It is apparent that many citizens are not aware of their obligations under the bylaw,” noted Smith. To that end, the city is also thinking about starting a public education campaign.
Smith anticipates that Surrey was within its $3.5 million budget for snow clearing
last year, and notes it’s too early to anticipate this year’s budget expenditures, but wrote the winter maintenance budget also includes an Emergency Fund reserve of $5 million that is drawn upon to supplement the regular budget.
Since the 2008/2009 winter season, which also saw massive snow fall, the city has taken steps to better address winter events.
The city has created a storage facility that holds 17,000 tonnes of salt, updated road brining operations, and has also started to use cameras to help with snow maintenance.
Rob Costanzo, Surrey’s manager of engineering operations, said the “coolest” update is the use of cameras.
“At our central dispatch we have this very large 80-inch screen and they basically have all the cameras on this screen so we can see at a glance how intersections are doing across the city,” Costanzo explained. “So if the dispatcher can see there’s a trouble spot…. then he’ll direct trucks to the problem area.”
Another blast of snow is forecast Wednesday, said Costanzo, but rain is expected Thursday and Friday and the city will then focus on flooding.
As for more snow?
“It’s been such an anomalous winter, we’re certainly not holding our breath,” he said with a chuckle. “If it happen again, we’re ready. We’ve still got lots of salt.”