January 5, 1997 in Nation/World

Older Residents Fired Up Over Plowing Policy

Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Revi
 

For years, elderly neighbors along Bernard Street, a much-traveled South Hill arterial, have beseeched me to write about the extra work city snow plows heap on them.

And for years, my standard reply has been: I write about business.

But these days, I also write columns about retirement. And among Spokane retirees, there is no livelier topic of conversation this winter than the city’s truck plows.

Their blades throw snow from the street onto sidewalks and into driveways.

My elderly neighbors shovel it out.

The city immediately plows it back in again.

My elderly neighbors shovel it out once more.

The city plows it back in again.

For retired gardener Kengo Kato, an old pro when it comes to yard maintenance equipment, operating an industrial-strength snowthrower is child’s play.

Unfortunately, he says, “My big five-horse Honda won’t budge the heaps of hard-packed frozen debris from the street that the city piles on my sidewalks. I am forced to shovel, and at my age that is very hard.”

Kato is 81.

In self defense, he has mounded up a three-foot-high berm of snow along the outside edge of his sidewalk at the curb, to serve as a barrier. But the truck plows barrel along Bernard at speeds that spew snow from the street all the way up into yards.

A block down Bernard, Pat Sullivan is nursing a new hip. The replacement won’t permit heavy lifting required to clear frozen-slush icebergs from the street off his sidewalks and out of the driveway.

“There’s no need for this problem to begin with,” the 78-year-old hotly declares. “This is an arterial, yes, but it’s two lanes - one lane each way. And these are extra wide lanes. So wide,” Sullivan points out, “that many motorists try to make this a four-lane arterial when it’s not, and they cause unnecessary accidents.

“But, anyway, the point is, the city didn’t used to plow to the curb,” says Sullivan. “There’s no need to bury our sidewalks beneath tons of ice and snow over and over, for us to dig out again and again. I use the snowblower to move what I can. But I won’t shovel any more. I can’t.”

Is there a better way? That’s what my neighbors want to know.

Unfortunately, the official answer is, no.

Section Six of the City of Spokane Snow Removal Policy adopted by the City Council on Nov. 8, 1993, reads: “Snow will be plowed to within one (1) foot of the curb on all streets, even though in many cases the sidewalks will be covered.”

Well, that’s clear enough.

But why was such a policy ever adopted in the first place? The truck plows used to stay six feet from the curb. Why didn’t the city leave well enough alone?

It can’t, says Larry Neil, the city’s director of street maintenance.

With traffic arteries severely strained to accommodate the explosive growth of recent years, it has become necessary to plow arterials from curb to curb to maintain traffic flow.

Maybe so. Maybe no.

Whatever, do truck plows have to throw street snow all the way over the berms that people build up on their sidewalks along the curb?

A case in point: As I stood on the sidewalk outside my fence, a truck plow roared down the street, spraying slush out 15 feet across the sidewalk and up onto lawns. I saw the truck coming too late to escape. The plow plastered me head to foot with dirty slush so wet and cold I needed a change. The plow must have been hitting at least 35. Maybe more.

That’s when I decided to write this column.

It happens, admits Neil.

How often?

“Probably more than we’d care to admit,” he said.

When the trucks plow the curb, the drivers are supposed to go 12 to 15 miles an hour. “That’s the right speed to cache the snow where it belongs,” said Neil. That speed won’t unnecessarily cover sidewalks and slop up yards, sometimes damaging private property.

But some drivers refuse to cooperate. “We’re constantly after them to slow down,” he said. “I’m glad you brought this up, maybe it will help us to get the message across.”

Yes, please.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review


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