Have you ever wondered why some roads are cleared right away and some aren’t?
Ed Robertson, assistant director of public works for the City of Victoria, has detailed the City’s emergency snow clearance plan that has been in effect all week.
The three-tiered system designates levels of priority for which routes will be cleared first.
Level 1 concerns major arterial roads, hills, decks and bridges. Also access to hospitals, and the police and fire departments.
The second level includes social care, homeless facilities, secondary roads and collection roads. Left-turn lanes with loop detectors also qualify for the second level.
The third level concerns residential streets, city parking lots and bike lanes.
Schools are responsible for clearing their own sidewalks and are not seen as a Level 1 priority.
“We have used 250 tonnes of salt and more is coming,” said Robertson. “On Saturday, we got through to Level 3 but for the last two days we’ve been at Level 1.”
He explained that crews are issued small maps of their sector and work through Level 1 until all roads are clear and then they progress to the next level. Whenever it snows, they have to return back to Level 1.
“We have five tandem dump trucks with plows and salt spreaders, three smaller trucks – also with plows and spreaders –and assorted other equipment like power brooms and Bobcats.”
Robertson added the City’s Gators, usually used in the cities parks and gardens, were also being utilized. “We put a blade on the Gators. When they’re not cutting grass, they’re out there moving snow.”
Robertson noted his department has a $40,000 training budget but receives operational money from the City’s contingency funds.
“As of yesterday, we’ve spent $25,000 and will go well beyond $40,000 by the end of the week,” he said.
The other Greater Victoria municipalities also have similar tiered systems and attend the same training courses as Victoria’s staff.
They also liaise once a year in the fall, where districts co-ordinate the boundaries of the areas they have responsibility for.
When asked how his crews, some working 12-hour shifts, were coping with the long days, Robertson said, “it’s tiring. There’s a lot of concentration plowing and providing assistance.”
In the wider B.C. context, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has four classes they use to prioritize road clearance resources for.
Class A roads are all numbered highways and are the ministry’s top priority. This includes Highway 17 (Pat Bay Highway) and Highway 1 starting at Tolmie Street.
Class B roads are all major side roads. On the Peninsula, this includes roads such as West Saanich Road and McTavish Road.
Class C roads are all school bus routes.
Class D roads are all other roads that fall under the ministry’s jurisdiction. When possible, the ministry does co-ordinate with local municipalities.
In addition, during major snowfall events, the ministry will focus on keeping intersection travel lanes passable first, and then work to remove snow from dedicated turning lanes.