Why emergency snow routes are not being used

Why emergency snow routes are not being used

For the sixth time this season, the city of Champaign activated its sidewalk snow removal ordinance on Thursday, giving property owners in Campustown and downtown until Saturday to clear their walks.

In all the snow-related alerts that city officials send to the media, they make it very clear when "emergency snow routes will NOT (sic) be activated." It's been a persistent message this winter. The last time emergency snow routes were activated was January 2010.

Here's a link to the city's emergency snow route ordinance. The rule restricts parking on certain streets during snowstorms so snowplows can do their job and major routes can be made safe for drivers.

So why aren't they being used?

It's very dependent on each specific storm, said Stacy Rachel, administrative services supervisor for Champaign Public Works. Whether or not the conditions will allow normal plowing routines affects whether city officials will activate the emergency snow routes.

"It is a very labor and time intensive project," Rachel said. Plowing an emergency snow route means sending snowplows in teams -- three, four or five plows wide -- to clear the primary routes. That means pulling plows off other routes -- residential streets, for example -- to make sure the snow is pushed farther off the primary roads.

And further, "it’s an inconvenience to people," Rachel said. "There are always people who are going to get towed off those routes."

Each time the city considers activating the emergency snow routes, Rachel said, it's a balancing act between the available city resources, the conditions and the inconvenience to city residents.

As long as we're talking about snow, how are the roads looking out there?

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PHOTO: At a time when morning traffic fills Prospect Avenue south of Kirby, only a snow plow and a SUV are on the street as residents dug out from a winter storm on Wednesday. Darrell Hoemann/The News-Gazette

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