Detroit to improve residential street snow removal

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — Snow removal crews will cut a wider swath on residential city streets after major storms in the winter, city officials said Tuesday.

Ron Brundidge, director of the city's Department of Public Works, said beginning this winter, crews contracted by the city to clear snow on residential streets will now be required to plow at least a 16-foot-wide path down the center of the roadway instead of a 10-foot path when 6 or more inches of snow accumulates within 24 hours.

A skit steer demostrates how it will be used to clear city bike paths during a press conference and demonstration on Buckingham and E. Warren, Tuesday, December 11, 2018.

"We've done that historically because our focus has always been to try to make it as convenient as possible for residents to get from their homes to the closest major street," he said. "But we recognized that when we did that, whenever vehicles tried to pass each other on a 10-foot path, they'd have to drive through the accumulated snow. In some cases, they were getting stuck and it was always very inconvenient."

Detroit DPW Director Ron Brundidge stands with employees and sub-contractors as he announces new snow-removal procedures on Detroit's city streets this winter.

In the past, it cost the city about $450,000 each time the department tapped contractors to remove snow on its 1,884 miles of residential streets, according to Brundidge. He said the wider path will cost the city about $534,000, or 20 percent more.

Letty Azar, manager of District 4 for the city's Department of Neighborhoods, said the city made the changes because residents wanted them.

"We heard the neighborhoods loud and clear about where we could improve when we were removing snow after major snowfalls last year," she said. "We took their concerns to the DPW and the Mayor's Office. This year, I think we're delivering a great improvement. Hopefully, we won't have to deliver it at all."

Resident Twiana Odom, who attended the news conference on the city's east side, welcomed the news.

"I think it's great," said Odom, who is secretary of the Morningside Neighborhood Association. "It's important to have a clear path through the snow on our streets, not only for cars but for school buses who have to pick up and drop off children."

City officials also said snow will be removed from the growing network of bike lanes with special machines called skid-steers. The city has about 50 miles of the lanes.

Trucks will make two passes to clear a total width of 16 feet on residential streets within 24 hours of snow events.

"Since this will be our first time clearing snow from the protected bike lanes on a large scale, we look forward to receiving feedback from the public to help us improve our process as we go along," Brundidge said.

Officials said the lanes will be salted along with city streets if there are 3 inches of snow or less. With 3-6 inches of snow, bike lanes will be plowed and salted. The snow from the bike lanes will be either pushed to the curb or hauled away.

More than 6 inches of snow will mean snow in the bike lanes will be cleared within 48-72 hours after all vehicle lanes have been cleared.

Tuesday's announcements come as a survey ranked Michigan as the sixth worst state in the country for driving in the snow.

The state had 59 snow crashes that resulted in 72 fatalities in 2016, according to a survey released Tuesday by SafeWise, a Salt Lake City-based website that reviews and compares security and safety products and services.

So far in December, Detroit has had 1/10 of an inch of snow, according to the National Weather Service.

Winter has yet to officially begin — it starts on Dec. 21 — and the season's official end  is March 20. Last winter, the city saw 22.5 inches of snow, the weather service said. It had about 38 inches the year before.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting a mild winter for much of the United States, including Detroit.

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez