I walked out Monday morning to carry a bag of trash to the dumpster. The alley was spotlessly plowed. In Saint Paul, we have to contract for our own alley plowing; on my block, we pony up about $20 a year to hire a guy who, as luck has it, lives on the same block, so he has to plow the alley to get to work and back home again.
Anyway – blocks in Saint Paul that can work together are generally plowed quickly and effectively. Mine’s luckier (and works better) than many, perhaps, but it works.
Which is great, because it gives you a nice clean bit of pavement to get a running head start onto the side streets.
I’ve seen roads this bad in Saint Paul – but usually only after double the snowfall. Sunday was a bunch of snow – 12-14 inches or so – but we’ve certainly seen worse.
But Tuesday morning, it took me 70 minutes to get from the Midway to Highway 5. That’s ten minutes worse than Monday. Along the way, I saw…:
- A truck with a horse trailer vainly spinning its tires for ten minutes, trying to get traction in the middle of traffic. On Snelling, southbound on the almost imperceptibly gentle grade north of Selby, by O’Gara’s.
- A row of cars on a steeper hill, behind a car that was spinning like mad, trying to find some scrap of traction.
- God only knows how many fender benders
- And, on Fairview southbound toward Ford Parkway, as I skidded for – I kid you not – half a block (ABS brakes rattling, feet eventually pumping) toward the cross street, a Honda Civic skidding in behind me, going waaaaaaay too fast. I took the last bit of directional control I could find and steered for the plow bank. The Civic, driven by a rattled-looking woman and coated with “Vote No” and “Obama” stickers, sailed past and into the intersection – and then gunned it across, through the red light.
- And finally…streets in Bloomington that were in perfectly fine shape.
The City of Saint Paul seems to have gotten behind the eight ball; mid-day yesterday they put up an announcement on their website, which explained that…:
It has been repeatedly commented that the roads seem worse today than yesterday. That is a true statement,particularly at the intersections the roads are worse. The temperatures overnight caused what had snow had started melting to freeze as ice. The situation at the intersections is then made worse as drivers accelerate spinning their wheels and when they don’t move as fast as they thought accelerate even further creating more heat and water making the situation worse – Not better. (Tip: when at an intersection and stopped take your foot off the brake and let the car begin to move on its own and accelerate slowly. If wheels start to spin back off the accelerator until car starts moving again)
This morning we began adding sand to our salt mix to provide some grit. As of noon we have placed just over 700 tons of salt on the street. This is almost three times the amount of salt we use in a typical snow event. While we are working on our salt conservation we are NOT going light on salt. in fact, at 11am, we increased our application rate by 30% to 100% to help cut the thicker snowpack. The conditions at this time warrant the need for more salt and that is what we are doing.
That’s all fine – and there are some good tips in there. And there’s no knock on the plow drivers, who are definitely out plowing roads. And the announcement is right, inasmuch as the snow fell on warm ground (remember how recently the temps were in the forties?) and then got hit by snow and a cold snap.
But here’s a question directed at a city government that has jacked up property taxes by nearly half in the past few years, and whose surrogates respond to any guff about taxes “how do you think we pay for snow-plowing?”: for the past two nights, I’ve driven north on a Snelling Avenue that feels like an Andean goat path, a jarring washboard ride that I think may have rattled a filling out of my tooth…
…until I get north of Larpenteur. Where it gets nice and smooth and dry and safe.
Ditto Hamline, Lexington, Fairview, Cleveland…
…American Boulevard, France Avenue, Penn Avenue…
…you get the picture. What do all of them know that the City of Saint Paul doesn’t?
Joe Doakes from Como Park writes:
Saint Paul never plows alleys and only plows residential streets during “snow emergencies” long after the snow is packed down by traffic.
Businesses privately plow parking lots and residents privately plow alleys, but what good are they if the street isn’t plowed?
St. Paul should allow residents to hire private side street plowing. Do it block-by-block and give a property tax credit to those who join. We’d get better service, plow operators would prosper, streets would be safer, city would save money. What’s not to love?
Not sure if it’s “allowed” or not, but the guy who does my alley also gets one of my block’s side streets. I think of it as our little oasis of street sanity.
This past few days, we’ve needed it.
Anyway, now I’m off to try to find a less-lethal route to work.
Anybody know where I can hire a Sherpa?