Minneapolis city officials are pledging to tear down those maddening mounds of snow this winter that often block bus stops and street corners.
“I literally do not know how an older person or a person in a wheelchair moves around in this city in the winter,” said Scott Engel, a member of the city’s pedestrian advisory committee.
Engel called the city’s renewed commitment to quickly remove the blockages nothing short of “amazing.”
The problem stems from city plows tossing the snow in piles where property owners don’t have the responsibility for clearing it.
City staffers tackled the problem in a more random fashion last year, Public Works Director Steve Kotke said Thursday.
The new standard for 2015 is to clear corners and bus stops at busy pedestrian areas within three days of a snow emergency — or after 4 inches of accumulated snow.
“I think this is one of the biggest challenges, frankly, in the city,” Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said. “We get to wintertime and the majority of our population is kind of trapped.”
Kotke said that it may take until March to get services up to par with the new policy, though residents will start noticing a difference in January and February.
The policy would apply to busy areas along most major arterial streets and have the most foot traffic and bus boardings.
“I’d like to be able to set a standard,” Kotke said. “And just say look, people can expect that we’re going to have these corners cleared off within a certain time frame. So I think that’s the essence of it.”
Bicyclists will also see some wintertime improvements. Kotke said they hope to spend $150,000 to buy equipment to aid plowing on narrow protected bikeways. City officials expect to spend $41,000 in additional ongoing funding to help clear the city’s 96 miles of protected bikeways.
Mayor Betsy Hodges has allocated $200,000 for the program in her proposed budget. Council member Blong Yang asked how much it would cost to expand the service to all streets in the city. Kotke estimated it would be about $1 million.
“That’s not too bad,” Yang said.
Engel and the pedestrian advisory committee were already eyeing ways to add additional money for more snow clearing. Not a $1 million worth, but at least another $100,000, Engel said.
“There’s a lot of lip service about using transit and walking,” Engel said. “But the city is plowing the snow right over the corners.”