Saturday, February 05, 2011

Too Much Snow

Before I launch into my complaints, I will say that I recognize the limits of what can be done when there is a record-setting amount of snow in one month. I've tried to be fair for weeks, allowing that this is an unusual circumstance. But I believe that certain criticisms are justified. My primary criticism is that the city has made a bad situation worse by failing to enforce the law and failing to send the plow crews out to fully clear the roads when they had the chance.

Way back on January 12, we had over two feet of fresh snow on the ground. On January 13, the roads were a mess. I had hoped the city would send the plows out again during the night of the 13th to finish their job, to widen roads where they hadn't cleared the lanes fully. If they had done so, we would currently have wider roads and we wouldn't have so many lanes lost to what  is now hard-packed snow. The city management probably assumed this would be a normal winter, and the roads would clear up on their own in a few days, as soon as the weather warmed up.

As we know, this is not a normal winter. If the city had fully plowed the roads on January 13, the plows would have been able to do a much better job during the storms that followed.

How bad are the roads? If you're not in Waterbury, here's a sample. There was no one behind me, so I stopped my car to let a pedestrian across the road and got this shot of Oak Street while I waited:

The city has also failed to enforce parking bans during snow storms. Waterbury makes it a habit to never enforce the parking ban (just like they never enforce the speed limit), and everyone knows it. As a result, the ban on parking on the even-numbered sides of the streets is completely ignored (might as well ignore the law if the law is never enforced, right?).

The Rep-Am ran a hilarious article on January 28 titled "Mayor talks tough about cars parked in streets." First point of hilarity: by January 28, the streets were full of cars that hadn't been moved in over a month--those cars, like the one opposite my driveway in the photo below, are buried in hard-packed snow and can't be towed unless they are dug out. Mayor Jarjura is "talking tough" a month too late.

Second point of hilarity: the "tough talk" is pretty darn weak. Jarjura is quoted saying that he isn't going to fully enforce the parking bans because of the recession. Supposedly the city was going to tow cars from major roadways, but only after creating a painfully bureaucratic process of making lists and going to excessive lengths to find the owner of the car first.  Seriously? Too little, too late. By January 28, the roadways were blocked by snow that was too hard-packed to plow. By January 28, the only way to clear the roads was with a front loader and dump truck.

This winter has given us yet another example of how the Jarjura administration fails at managing quality of life issues for Waterbury.

The problem with the narrowing of the streets has become very personal for me. There is an abandoned car opposite my driveway (the photo above). Because the car is abandoned, it hasn't been shoveled out. Every time it snows, the hard-packed snow pile gets larger and the plows are less and less able to fully clear the road. I can no longer back out as far into the street when I pull out of my driveway. This means I need to cut to the right much sooner in order to navigate the mountains of snow on either side of my driveway.

When I left for work yesterday morning (the photo above is from today, after the road cleared up thanks to warmth and drizzle), I had no trouble getting out my driveway. I was briefly happy as I backed out as far as I could, cutting to the right as far as I could. Then, because the road was covered in a three-inch deep layer of sandy ice and snow, my car slid sideways down the road. I was wedged between two giant piles of sandy snow and ice.

I tried going backwards. I tried going forwards. Sometimes I felt my car rotate a few degrees on the icy road, but this only wedged me in further. I felt rushed, because I was completely blocking the road during the morning rush hour and school bus time. I got out of the car and got a dirt shovel (better than a snow shovel for breaking hard-packed snow) from my garage. I tried digging down the snowbank behind me. I tried digging down the snow pile in front of me. Finally a woman from down the street suggested I put my floor mats under the wheels for traction. Success! I was finally able to get my car pointed the right way. Sadly, I left part of my car on the ice and snow.

I'm a little cranky about the hole in my front bumper. If the city had done its job and enforced parking bans from the beginning, this never would have happened.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and above freezing. I'll head out with my ice breaker and dirt shovel late in the afternoon. Hopefully I'll be able to open up a wider path for my car.

I can't do anything about the other road hazards. I've been impressed by the way most drivers are being more courteous than usual to one another. But there are some places where you just feel doomed. Like when I get down to the end of my street and have to turn left on Walnut Street with zero visibility of the oncoming traffic from the left. The photo below shows the view to the left when I stop as far forward as I can without being in the way of the cars coming from the left. I'm worried that if I pull forward far enough to see if anyone is coming, I'll get hit.

I know the plows have to put the snow somewhere, but is it really necessary to make a dangerous intersection (several fatalities over the years) more dangerous?


Anonymous said...

Is the sidewalk in front of your house completely clear of ice and snow as required by local ordinance? Should everyone in your neighborhood who has not cleared their sidewalks be given a $90 ticket everyday until the sidewalk is clear? Or is this impractical? It is easy for people like you who have a private driveway to demand that "even-side" parking bans be enforced, but just where are folks supposed to park? This current batch of storms is a very unusual sequence of bad luck and no one could have predicted exactly how things would go. This is the time for us to be patient and work together and understand that some people have a very difficult time managing, especially the elderly and those people who have to work long hours just to survive. It is NOT a time to capitalize on others' misery to score political points in a blog.

Waterbury Girl said...

There is no attempt on my part to "score political points" in this blog post. I am one of many Waterbury taxpayers who feels like their city is letting them down.

I am frustrated because I will now have to replace my bumper even though I was laid off last year and so far have been able to find only 22 hours a week of employment, which means I really can't afford a new bumper. This is not other peoples' misery--this is my own misery. And if the city did its job well, I wouldn't need a new bumper.

I am frustrated because every time I try to drive off my street, I am at great risk of being hit by another car. I am frustrated because I take the time and effort to shovel my sidewalk, but the corner store next door, which is regularly cited for blight violations, never shovels their sidewalk. Which means it's a damn good thing I have a driveway, because it's the only way pedestrians can get to and from the sidewalk. For the record, because the off-street parking is clogged with snow, I let my neighbors use my driveway whenever they need it.

Other cities are able to enforce parking bans, why not Waterbury? Saying that people without off-street parking (which, by the way, everyone on my street has access to) have no options is a weak cop-out.

When the city paves streets, everyone who parks on that street, both sides, is required to find parking elsewhere. If they can do it for that, why can't half the street do it for a snowstorm?

I have every right to voice my concerns and complaints. Whoever you are, you seem very bitter and petty, and you are very quick to dismiss and undermine my viewpoint.

Bryan P. Baker said...

When you also consider the fact that the Waterbury Schools have been closed for 10 of the past 24 school days, there is something to this post. Especially since one of the school days was cancelled specifically because the streets weren't properly cleaned. This is a serious problem, and not just scoring "political points".