Editorial: Room to improve Glenwood snow removal
Update: This editorial and a previous PI story on Glenwood snow removal erred in saying that the city is responsible for clearing the parking lanes on Grand Avenue. That’s the Colorado Department of Transportation’s job. We have revised the editorial to call on CDOT to ensure parkers’ safety by clearing snow from those lanes and urge on the city to press CDOT to make that happen.
Good news: The Glenwood Springs City Council this week will talk about snow removal.
Mayor Mike Gamba told PI reporter John Stroud last week: “We do need to make sure we are doing a good job for our residents and businesses and visitors. Anecdotally, it does seem like we could perhaps do a better job of it, and I wonder if there isn’t some room for improvement.”
While that’s a very cautious statement, we’re going to agree with the core of it: Glenwood Springs could be better at clearing snow from its streets.
Let’s acknowledge that snow removal is a difficult and expensive job that’s always subject to criticism. This has been a snowy winter, with steady, smaller storms and not much break in the cold that might, in other years, melt away some of the big mounds and make city workers’ jobs easier.
Let’s also agree that making streets passable is at the core of needed municipal services — and that times change.
What might have been OK a decade or two ago might not best serve the town’s needs now, particularly in light of a major construction project to replace the Grand Avenue bridge.
Among the early impacts of that project is the loss of several parking places downtown, under the existing bridge and along Seventh Street.
With parking at a premium downtown even before these closures, the loss of these spots means that it’s a bad practice to leave snow piled up in still more on-street spaces.
So one recommendation we have is to get snow cleared out of downtown parking spaces within 48 hours of pushing it there during the process of clearing traffic lanes. Every parking spot is precious.
A second recommendation: Get down to bare pavement on Grand Avenue parking spots.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is responsible for clearing snow on Highway 82 through town. The parking lanes haven’t been cleared downtown this winter, and they need to be for safety. CDOT needs to do this job and the city needs to press for it to get done.
If any CDOT bureaucrats or city councilors question the need to do this, we suggest they park on northbound Grand downtown, get out of the car on the driver side and try to get back in. Packed ice this winter has created the real risk of someone slipping and falling either into a parked car or, frighteningly, into a traffic lane.
We worry a lot about visitor experiences and Glenwood’s image as a tourist destination. Even though winter is not our peak tourist season, not much could be worse publicity for the town than having anyone, resident or visitor, fall into a downvalley RFTA bus’s path.
A lot of effective snow removal has to do with timing. Anyone who has shoveled a walk knows that it’s easier to do shortly after the snow falls. After it gets packed down, walked on, driven on and goes through a couple of thaw-freeze cycles, it’s harder to clear away.
One resident told the PI that, for the first few days after a storm, the snow stacked in the middle of streets and shoved into giant mounds along the sides of streets is a tolerable reality of winter. A week or more later, it gets really old — and increasingly dangerous, particularly the towers of packed snow that block drivers’ views at intersections.
So hit it hard early on to ensure safety, then truck away the biggest piles to make it easier to navigate the streets and park.
Very earnestly, we don’t mean this editorial to beat up city maintenance crews for following the established template for snow removal.
We truly are glad that the council is going to take a look at the template and, we hope, work with Millyard to come up with a more efficient way to do the best the city can without, say, doubling spending.
It’s a basic municipal service, it’s a safety issue and a quality of life issue.
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