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Plowing curb to curb safer for cars, pedestrians

Mick Souder

I like snow. I get all excited when a storm is coming. I sit by the window with a hot beverage and watch the snow as it is coming down.

I play in it with snowshoes and skis (the cross-country type). I like walking around when there is 3 feet of snow along the sidewalks. Shoveling snow loosens up my back. Chopping ice in the alley to get water flowing to the drains reminds me of growing up and getting water to move in icy ditches in February.

I don’t like how we handle snow in city streets here in Durango. Streets get narrowed by plowing too far from the curb. Cars get buried, narrowing the streets further. Melting snow can’t get to the curb drains, causing water to ice up in the streets as soon as the sun disappears behind a house or a hill on a cold winter day.

I’m one of those folks who, when I see a letter to the editor about some visitor complaining that they don’t have Budweiser at our microbreweries, I mutter at the paper “go back to blank!” (Blank is almost always Texas – just sayin’.)

However, I did live in a place that generally knows how to handle snow on the streets. Minnesota. Minnesota has to know how to handle snow. Unlike here, most years it stays cold for several months so snow accumulates without melting. Durango would do well to emulate how St. Paul and Minneapolis deal with snow on the streets.

In the Twin Cities, plow drivers go curb to curb. They understand that in storms, such as we had in the middle of January, if you don’t plow all the way to the curb on the first pass, the curb won’t be available in subsequent plowing as the previous snow ices up.

Right now on my narrow street, the snow forms an ice-packed wall 6 feet from the curb on my side of the street (ironically, the no-parking side) and an additional foot on the other side. This is a loss of street width wider than my Honda Accord. If we train our plow drivers to go curb to curb, we would not lose a car width of space during our heavier storms.

Another thing they do in Minnesota that would be of benefit here is make people move their cars after the storm, so that plows can clear both sides of the street and be ready for the next storm. For example, cars would all need to be moved to the side of the street with even numbered addresses one day and that would get plowed, then cars would have to move to the odd address side of the street the next day, so that side gets cleared. Cars that aren’t moved get towed.

While plowing curb to curb can be accomplished through city administration and driver training, creating an ordinance and notification system to compel people to move their cars under the threat of ticketing or towing would require political discussion and agreement.

It’s a discussion worth having though. Having plowed streets and snowmelt able to get to the drains will make our town safer, and easier to navigate for cars and pedestrians (as well as for my neighbor who bicycles to work) in the winter.

Mick Souder serves as a director for Three Springs Metropolitan District #1.