Saint John neighbourhood poised to lose all sidewalk snowplowing

·3 min read

Saint John Coun. Ray Strowbridge is raising concerns about the city's proposed snowplowing plan for this winter, which will see one east side neighbourhood lose all its sidewalk clearing.

He worries it will leave vulnerable people in Silver Falls unable to get around and that it will be a safety hazard for the pedestrians who do venture out in the "dense" neighbourhood, located near McAllister Place mall.

"You have a mixture of single family homes, apartment buildings and duplexes. And you've got a lot of transit users. You've got a lot of school-age kids.

"So you've got a pretty significant neighbourhood/subdivision who now has zero sidewalks to walk on for the upcoming winter unless staff change their mind and reconsider, which I'm hoping they will do," said Strowbridge.

Council got its first look at the winter management plan earlier this week, during a presentation by Mike Hugenholtz, commissioner of transportation and environment services.

Slight reduction in 'surge capacity'

Hugenholtz told council one of the most significant changes relates to staffing levels. As part of the recently ratified collective agreement, the public works and transportation department is losing 18 employees, he said.

As a result, there's been a rebalancing of personnel between the day and night shifts and plow routes have been redesigned, which should allow for better street clearing overnight.

Hugenholtz doesn't anticipate any "significant" service level changes. But "there will be a slight reduction in our, what I term as our surge capacity, to deal with severe winter storms at times of peak demand, i.e. the morning or evening rush hours," he said.

With sidewalk plowing, there will be a reduction of staff as well as three sidewalk clearing machines, one of which was a spare, said Hugenholtz.

Staff have also redesigned the sidewalk plowing routes, reducing the amount of sidewalks to be cleared by about 16 kilometres — roughly a six per cent cut.

In making these changes, staff considered vehicle traffic volumes, vehicle traffic speeds on the adjacent roadways, pedestrian traffic volumes, as well as the length and configuration of the streets, he said.

CBC
CBC

Strowbridge said he realizes the city is facing an $11 million deficit and tough decisions need to be made.

"But what alarms me, and what made me speak up at council during this presentation, is when I saw a complete neighbourhood losing all of their sidewalk clearing."

"I don't think that's right," he said, even though he's a councillor for Ward 4 and Silver Falls is just outside his boundary, in Ward 3.

Some of the other streets that will see sidewalk clearing reductions include Tim Street, which is near Glen Falls School, but the school is also accessed by Simpson Drive, said Strowbridge, and Coldbrook Crescent, which goes through a subdivision and is a transit route, but it's "not a terribly long street" and the sidewalk will still be plowed at nearby John T. McMillan Avenue.

Last winter, Silver Falls had five sidewalks plowed, according to Strowbridge. "That's because there's a lot of people using them," he said.

To suddenly drop to none, is "too much. I think we should at least leave one, maybe two."

Time to reconsider

He hopes other councillors are also advocating for change and is optimistic there's still time.

"It's not like we're saying, 'Change it now,' when there's six feet of snow on the sidewalk, and you can't get the sidewalk back. … I mean, there's tons of room to change it until we see snow."

Strowbridge said there's been no formal discussion about Saint John following the lead of Halifax in requiring homeowners to clear the sidewalk in front of their properties.

"If you're able and you have the community desire and spirit … to do the sidewalk in front of your house or your neighbours', by all means, go for it," he said.

But he's "not a fan" of making it mandatory.