Is this the best we can do?

I have been patient. Lord knows, I’ve been patient.

Like most Edmontonians, I realize that this month’s snowfall — and we’re only HALFWAY through January — is flirting with records. Two weekends ago, we had an epic, two-day snowfall, and this weekend and into Monday it snowed like the inside of some demented snowglobe. Yes, it’s crazy, and yes, it’s unusual. And so, I’ve been patient, waiting for the city the level off my street before another vehicle gets stuck. (I spent about 30 minutes helping three different cars out from in front of my house on Monday.) I realize that the main roads come first, and if the main roads were reasonably clear of snow, then I could wait.

But driving in to work on Tuesday,  my patience with the city disappeared.

My car radio tells me that the city was set to resume residential ‘blading’ (sounds nasty, doesn’t it?) at noon, since the main roads were reasonably clear. Right about then, I took a turn onto 156th Street, a route I don’t normally take. Big mistake.

The only way I can describe the state of 156th Street is to say that it was a total disgrace to a city the size of Edmonton. This is not a lightly trafficked side road; thousands of cars rumble down this street every day. But after spending 15 minutes to drive about three kms, I am convinced that 156th Street has never seen a snowplow. The ruts are colossal, jagged and shock-rattling. I saw one car that had completely lost control and rammed into a snow bank — going against traffic. I eventually found my way off 156th, and found other main west end roads somewhat better, but not much. Where were the graders? Where were the sanding trucks?

Honestly, I am sympathetic. I know we’ve had double our usual snowfall. I know the equipment is running around the clock. But maybe we should be asking ourselves if we have enough equipment to do the job. We’re a winter city that doesn’t get a whole hell of a lot of snow relative to some central Canadian cities (Montreal gets an average of 218 cm of snow, we get 137 cm), but we don’t seem to be able to get rid of it in timely manner. Could it be that we’ve just been conditioned to expect an inferior level of service in the name of reduced taxes?

I would be happy to pay more in taxes if I would be assured that the money was being used to improve snow moving and renewal, and I’m a tremendous cheapskate.

I hope someone on city council, once this mess has finally been cleaned up, will ask the question ‘can we do better?’

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