February 21, 2014
Responding to large storm events is a challenge for our county government and our residents. We have a very robust snow plow operation that clears the roads very efficiently, and our superb highway team is always working to improve its performance. However, we do not have a sufficient plan or policies in place to meet the challenge of removing snow from sidewalks and pedestrian crossings.
I have seen or heard reports of pedestrians walking in the street on major roads, mothers pushing strollers over sidewalks that have not been cleared, seniors and individuals with mobility challenges unable to enter a street crossing because it is blocked by snow, and even motorized wheelchairs moving in traffic lanes on state highways (in this case, University Blvd) because sidewalks are impassable.
We know that the county considers its snow removal work complete long before these problems have been resolved.
I am requesting Council staff to draft legislation requiring Montgomery County DOT to create a Sidewalk Snow Removal Plan.
The plan would require elements including:
- A digital map of the county showing who is responsible for clearing snow on all sidewalks in the county
- A “major storm event” communications plan addressing a range of preparation efforts that residents need to understand, and including sidewalk snow removal, to be implemented in advance of major storm events
- A targeted public education campaign for property owners to make them aware where they are responsible for clearing sidewalks from snow
- Establishing pedestrian priority routes where additional education, enforcement and county services will be applied
- A public education campaign to educate residents about how to request enforcement of sidewalk clearing rules, and enhanced process for residents to request enforcement by 311
- Policies for keeping 311 in operation late during snow events
- Increased enforcement for property owners who fail to clear their sidewalks
- Plan for county-provided snow removal at bus-stops and around Metro stations
- Plan for county-provided snow removal near schools
- Plan for county-provided snow removal along state highways
- Plan for county-provided snow removal along highest priority pedestrian routes
- Plan for snow removal in urban districts, funded by urban districts
- Pedestrian access requirements provided to snow removal contractors and performance assessment based on fulfilling the plan
- Plan for clearing hiker biker trails on a prioritized basis
- Plan for trash removal if snow cancels collection
I recognize that we have limited resources and storm events are already a massive expense for the county — we spend over $1 million per day during snow events, according to the county executive.
Clearing the roads is a critical mission, but ensuring that all residents have mobility after storm events is the real goal. We should not be satisfied with finishing part of the job.