Port Moody approves action plan to improve snow clearing during winter storms

Port Moody Station’s sidewalks covered in snow in 2018. (Lee Howett photo / Twitter)

The City of Port Moody has approved an action plan to improve its snow and ice clearing response during winter storms.

Ten recommendations which would fit into the existing operating budget were proposed to council on April 18, along with four items that would require significant funding.

Council unanimously approved implementation of the cheaper recommendations along with some capital expenses, but not budget increases.

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Mayor Meghan Lahti said this would allow the city to purchase some additional equipment. She said a major complaint from the public related to snow plows pushing cleared snow back onto sidewalks and properties.

“We already have people out doing sidewalk clearing, but it’s not efficient or effective in the way it’s being done,” Lahti said. “My understanding is there’s (snow plow) blades that can be bought that will prevent the problem.”

On Feb. 27, the Mayor’s Town Hall on Snow and Ice Response took place, where staff gave a presentation to an audience of approximately 24 people regarding the city’s snow clearing operational practices.

 A summary of the public engagement was released, outlining the feedback on roads, pedestrian areas, and general concerns.

Participants provided positive comments for 44 specific road locations, including exclusively positive feedback for the St. Johns Street-Barnet Highway corridor. 

Generally, higher priority roads were considered well serviced.

However, there were 13 locations with negative feedback, of which seven are priority 3 roads (maintained only during weekday normal business hours). 

Policy adjustments were recommended to increase the snow clearing activity on these roads within the existing budget.

Staff said town hall participants expressed a strong desire to increase service on these roads, but residents surveyed during budget consultations said they wanted to maintain service levels overall.

Regular clearance of the priority 3 areas would require an increase to the operational budget of $450,000.

Similar feedback was received regarding pedestrian areas, with residents expressing a desire for pedestrian areas to be cleared sooner following a winter storm. 

Qualitative feedback was focused on the quality of work in these areas, particularly at medians and curb let downs. 

These areas are currently serviced, but additional resources such as staff and equipment are required to improve the overall level of service, estimated at an increase of $310,000 to the operational budget.

Participants identified 52 locations where sidewalk clearing by adjacent property owners has been inadequate. 

Staff recommended updating city bylaws to reflect accessibility standards in line with the province’s Accessible British Columbia Act, as well as clarification regarding boulevard maintenance standards. 

Additionally, staff suggested maintenance requirements on boulevard areas may not be well understood. 

Staff recommend updating public education and advertising programs, including specific information about responsibilities for snow clearing on sidewalks adjacent to private property, and increasing bylaw enforcement especially following a snowfall event.

Feedback indicated a desire for a volunteer matching program, similar to the Snow Angels programs that operate in neighbouring communities, which connects residents in need with volunteers or other resources. 

Staff recommended investigating the requirements to operate a dedicated program in the city.

The maintenance of private facilities, such as parking areas, sidewalks, or other common areas, was also discussed at length. 

Port Moody does not maintain these areas on private property, and reports of accessible parking stalls used as snow storage, restricted sightlines, unshovelled curb letdowns and other accessibility barriers were reported as a source of frustration for both pedestrians and motorists. 

Staff recommended investigating the suitability and feasibility for the city to enact requirements for maintenance on private property.

The capital expenditures approved include $560,000 for brine-making equipment and facilities to support pedestrian sidewalk clearing.

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