News / Calgary

Calgary invests to fix snow buildup blocking driveways

This snow season the city bought nine pieces of equipment they say will help Calgarians with windrows

According to the City, the average annual snowfall in Calgary from 2011 to 2017 was 126 centimetres.

Jennifer Friesen / Calgary Freelance

According to the City, the average annual snowfall in Calgary from 2011 to 2017 was 126 centimetres.

Windrows, there’s no getting around them — until now.

The city’s hoping nine pieces of equipment they’re testing will make a big impact on the annoying piles of snow.

At a cost of $100,000, they’ve added devices called snow gates to one snow grader in each of the nine districts they plow.

Controlled by the driver, these gates are able to push windrows out of the way when the machine comes to a driveway, crosswalk or a bus stop — anywhere really — all in one pass.

And for some citizens like Erin Joslin, it could make a big difference.

“I look at my street and I say it was almost better before you plowed it. It’s the windrows making the difficulty,” said Joslin. “I’m seven months pregnant and I can’t climb over that.”

While some Calgarians are calling for more money in the snow-clearing and removal budget to bring the city up to a Montreal standard, where they spend about $155 million a year on removal, Joslin has said she isn’t for throwing money at the problem and raising taxes. Instead, she’d like to see a review of the procedures to see what’s working and not working.

Coun. Ward Sutherland said the “disaster” 2013/2014 winter that forced changes in city snow clearing (including a 30 per cent increase in contract work) isn’t unlike our latest dump.

And city roads director Troy McLeod would agree; the only difference they’re seeing is the wind factor.

Sutherland said the changes council made to the snow-clearing budget have helped.

“There were people actually locked into their communities,” said Sutherland, talking about the 2013 winter. “We’ve had the same amount of snow, in fact, a little bit more now. It’s been dealt with substantially better.”

In Calgary, Sutherland said there isn’t actually enough space to deal with all the snow accumulation, and the little snow the city currently trucks out of town has already filled up its allotted storage.

According to numbers from the city’s road department, a one-time snow removal would cost the city $15 million — and the snow budget totals $38.7 million.

McLeod said it was something the department looked into last year when concerns about driveway access were high.

“We wanted to try them, get each district used to using them, and as we can, expand the fleet,” he said.

“It just saves us from having to go back and use equipment like Bobcats ... hopefully we can get it on the first round as the graters go through.”

He said every route can’t be covered but it’s a step in the right direction to help keep intersections clear.

More on