The first snowfall of the year last Sunday is raising questions about winter preparations in the University District.
Last winter, ice remained on Kingston and campus streets for months, posing a danger to students.
Matthew Barrett, grounds manager at Physical Plant Services (PPS), said both PPS and the City have a snow removal plan in place, adding that PPS has met with the City’s public works operations team to ensure areas are “not overlapping each other.”
He said Queen’s “actually kind of figured out [last winter] pretty well”, but City sidewalks surrounding the university “took a beating”.
This year, he said, PPS is using additives in the salt that will enable the salt to work at lower temperatures.
“We did use it last year but we’ve increased the dosage of it to the salt to help that reaction time and get it working faster,” he said.
“The good thing is it helps you reduce the amount of salt you have to use as well, so it lessens the impact on the environment as well in the areas because salt can be corrosive in areas if you use too much of it.”
Barrett added that this winter will see an increase in the monitoring of sidewalks, greater frequency of sidewalk plows, more communication with contractors and the City and more snow removal in high traffic areas.
He also wants to educate people on how to handle problem areas in the wintertime.
“[W]e’re encouraging students and faculty and staff members that when there is an issue or if they see an area that may have been missed or is slippery, not to tweet it or not to Facebook it but to report it to the Fix It desk at Physical Plant Services so that we can get that area addressed if it’s been missed,” Barrett said.
Sydenham District councillor-elect Peter Stroud said the majority of Sydenham residents saw last winter’s sidewalk ice clearing as “very inadequate”, citing extreme weather conditions and “the inability of staff to adapt”.
As councillor, Stroud will sit on two of the City’s four Standing Committees — Environment, Infrastructure & Transportation Policies (EITP), which he said is his first choice; Administrative Policies; Arts, Recreation & Community Policies; and Planning.
Sitting on the EITP, which reviews pedestrian and transportation safety, would allow him to influence policy, he said, but the cost of better equipment to treat ice on sidewalks may be “prohibitive”.
“And that’s actually where the problem would lie, ‘cause Public Works would probably tell me, the staff would probably say, ‘okay, this is the cost to enact that policy, this is the extra cost and the budget doesn’t allow for that extra cost’,” Stroud said.
However, he said, some of the funds from a possible increase in the City’s Public Works budget this year should be designated towards “sidewalk safety apart from road safety”.
“If we’re buying new equipment, some of it needs to be sidewalk equipment, ‘cause it is different equipment,” Stroud said.
“We need the City to consider pedestrian traffic as part of traffic and when you’re clearing snow and ice, it’s not just for cars.”
He added that if a policy were developed in the EITP, whose first meeting will take place in the middle of December, it likely wouldn’t come into effect until next winter.
The City classifies roads based on priority level for clearing after snowfall. The classifications, in descending order of priority, include arterial, bus route, Residential 1 and Residential 2. The designations are based on street traffic rather than pedestrian traffic.
Barrie and Union Streets are deemed arterial roads while Division St., Stuart St. and University Ave. are classified as bus routes. Stroud said most sidewalks in the University District are Residential 1 or Residential 2.
In order to improve sidewalk clearing, he said, some classifications should be upgraded “for pedestrian purposes” — from bus route to arterial, for example.
“I’m asking for the sidewalks to be bumped up a category for winter snow clearance,” Stroud said.
“The roads, not necessarily, because University Avenue doesn’t need to be plowed as often as Union, that’s true — but the sidewalks do.”
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