Published on Monday, 03 November 2014 in The Calgary Journal
Hilly communities prove to create hazardous conditions
With the winter months approaching, Calgarians are starting to get ready for hazardous driving conditions but not everyone has faith in the city’s snow removal efforts.
Petroula Christakis lives in Hawkwood, a hilltop community west of Nosehill Park in the city’s northwest. She cited that every winter city buses getting stuck is a regular occurrence and that getting to work in the morning can be a frustrating endeavor.
“The snow removal is always really bad in this area,” she said.
As evidenced by the snowfall on Sept. 8, parts of Calgary can fall into disarray when there is snow on the road in the winter months.
Residents in communities like Hawkwood and Edgemont sometimes see the worst of it, with snow staying on the roads sometimes until the spring months.
The City of Calgary has a seven-day plan in the instance of a snow event.
Once the snow has settled, the first two days are spent plowing major highways that see over 20,000 cars a day and then secondary roads that see anywhere between 5,000 to 19,000 cars a day.
Residential areas are scheduled to be plowed from the third to sixth day. However, the plows will only knock snow ruts down to 12 centimetres, enough snow to warrant a winter warning in some cities.
Jessica Bell, the communications advisor for the roads department in Calgary, explained that it is rare to see actual snow removal in residential areas. Instead the snow crews “flat blade” the snow to try and make it easier for people to drive on.
Photo by Jeff Medhurst
“At this time roads does not have any plans to change our snow removal policy, or lack thereof, in residential communities,” Bell said.
“The reason for this being that during a typical Calgary winter our planned response to snowfall is adequate.”
Bell said the city’s budget for snow and ice control is $34.6 million annually. Cities like Toronto and Montreal have snow removal budgets between $80 million and $100 million.
“At roads we have a measured, planned response to snowfalls,” Bell said. “We will continue to provide the best service we can according to our council approved snow and ice control policy.”
But, that response isn’t enough for a lot of people in northwest communities where flat bedding might not be adequate safety for a lot of drivers.
Another resident of Hawkwood, Kelly Dallison, has found that while she still has to be careful, the risk of sliding down a snowy hill isn’t as likely as it used to be.
“I have found that it has gotten better over the years,” Dallison said.
Communities like Hawkwood and Edgemont are built into hills. This creates extra slippery conditions especially when the snow gets patted down.
Hawkwood resident Christakis added that when the city spreads salt and sand on city roads, it melts the snow and ice, but then that water freezes overnight creating sheets of ice two to three inches thick on roads.
Dallison agreed with Christakis’ sentiment and said that it is the ice to watch out for, and in such cases she will use the snow as traction.
Greg Hartzler, the communications liaison for Councillor Joe Magliocca of Ward 2 in Calgary, defended the city’s snow removal policy. He said he hears little complaint from constituents.
“Actually the main complaint we receive is that walking pathways don’t see enough plowing,” Hartzler said.
AMA Insurance Communications Coordinator Alexandra Sochowski said that while insurance quotes are determined in case-to-case scenarios, she has found that most people in hilly communities will end up waiting to drive until the area is at least sanded.
“Most drivers in the areas mentioned are aware of the potential problems on snowy days,” Sochowski said. “However there are always exceptions.”