Haligonians call for change in next year’s snow clearing

Halifax has had a harsh winter. Freeze and thaw cycles have left the sidewalks icy and snowbanks are taking up a few feet on either side of some streets. Will Halifax make any snow clearing changes for next year?

Don Mielke’s daily letter carrying route used to be finished at 3pm. Now, because of the ice on Halifax’s sidewalks, he’s out until about 7pm every night.

“The city has to do a better job than what they’re doing. It’s just terrible,” said Mielke. “It was better when people did their own [sidewalk clearing].”

Because of the intensity of this winter, the city had already exceeded the $20 million snow clearing budget by the end of February. Some days the snow clearing crews worked around the clock to clear the roads. Extra equipment has been brought in to clear the ice, in addition to the municipality’s 10 sidewalk plows, 44 pieces of assorted equipment to help with road clearing and 120 to 150 pieces of contracted equipment.

Looking forward

As the end of winter nears and snow and ice clearance becomes less of an immediate concern, questions are raised of how the city can do better next winter.

Coun. Linda Mosher has been vocal about the need for change in the upcoming years.

“Personally I have not seen our streets in these poor conditions,” writes Mosher in Chebucto News this month. “I feel the weather over the past two winters may not be unusual but a reflection of what to expect in the future as a result of climate change.”

Halifax has faced increasingly harsh winters in the last few years. For example, in the winters of 2011 and 2012, the city used 25,500 tonnes of salt. Two years later in the winters of 2013 and 2014, they used 46,759 tonnes of salt.

Mosher also said that she has a motion for regional council to look at alternate options for winter street parking, such as longer winter parking bans or alternate side parking.

Changes to snow clearing will not be made until an end of season report later this year.

Any proposed changes will be based off the report and the feedback that councillors’ have gotten from residents through the winter, says Jennifer Stairs, a senior communications advisor for Halifax.

Recent changes

Since 2013, municipal crews have been responsible for sidewalk clearing in addition to road clearing on the peninsula. Municipal crews in peninsula Halifax and Dartmouth are now responsible for clearing an extra 200 kilometres of sidewalks and 2,220 lane kilometres of streets when it snows.

In recent years, Halifax has also begun spraying brine, or saltwater, on streets to prevent ice and snow from sticking to surfaces as firmly. This makes the streets less difficult to plow.

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