Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the roads may be cleared, but sidewalks are another story

Adam over at Maryland Politics Watch says that East County and Downcounty aren't getting their streets cleared after last weekend's massive blizzard. This image from MoCo's "snow-clearning" map showed that much of the county east of Georgia Avenue and below the Beltway had yet to be plowed as of yesterday afternoon.

Randolph Road at Connecticut Avenue
Randolph Road at Connecticut Avenue.

(My neighborhood, and many others east of Route 29, met the snowplow twice by Sunday evening, so I have to give it to Adam and his un-cleared street for making me aware of this.)

The maps say that snowplows have now been to all streets in the county, which should hopefully stop the flood of e-mails from frustrated constituents in my work inbox. But left largely untouched two days into a new work week are our sidewalks, which in many places are completely covered after the streets are plowed. (That is, if there were ever sidewalks under all that snow to begin with.)

All along Randolph Road, which I take to work, the sides of the road are lined with soot-covered snowbanks that in some places are six feet high. Bus stops seem to have disappeared and walking to work or errands means either strapping on a pair of snowshoes or making your own sidewalk in the street.

Randolph Road at Georgia Avenue
And that's what I saw most people doing this morning near Kennedy and Wheaton high schools, which are now closed for the week but still have some students milling around, and at the Glenmont Metro station. I saw a woman holding a kid in one hand and pushing a stroller in another walking down Randolph at Glenallan as cars swerved out of her way.

This is almost acceptable in a residential neighborhood where traffic is light and cars are going slowly enough to see pedestrians. On a busy road like Randolph, where rush-hour traffic is going by at forty or fifty miles an hour, this is a dangerous situation.

I'm not totally sure what the policy on shoveling sidewalks is, though I'd assume the responsibility falls on the property owners fronting them. But I wouldn't fault the owner of a house or apartment building for not clearing a sidewalk when the sidewalks get deluged by snow cleared from the roads.

Here's hoping that for lack of a means to clear sidewalks, the snow melts in due time (which it won't so long as temperatures hover around the freezing mark) so that those who travel the county by foot can be as safe as their counterparts who drive.


Robert said...

The snow clearing policy, indeed county law, is that property owners clear sidewalks. This seems grossly unfair when the state or county road clearing crews pile snow up on the sidewalks as they go by. I'm certainly not faulting the dedicated workers who clear the streets. Their plows are designed to push the snow onto the side of the road -- that is very often onto the sidewalk. It is unreasonable for the county to expect property owners to clear huge mounds of snow placed by the county or state on the public right of way and sidewalks adjoining their homes. It is similarly unreasonable to expect property owners to clear the sidewalks when the county fails to clear the sidewalks along parks, etc.

And just try to walk on the sidewalk on Colesville Road on the bridge over the Beltway, as many students have to do to reach Montgomery Blair High School. There must be a sidewalk somewhere under all that snow.

Again, I'm not criticizing the workers clearing the snow from the streets, and I thank all the people that have cleared sidewalks. It is just that the law is unreasonable, so unreasonable that the county doesn't follow it for its own property.

Thomas Hardman said...

First, a little clarification.

Many of the major highways such as Georgia Avenue north of Wheaton, and much of Randolph Road, were developed with "no egress across this line", meaning that while the back yards of houses are up against the highway right-of-way, the fencing and the lack of pedestrian/vehicular access means that there is no requirement whatsoever for those homeowners to clear the highway frontage.

In any case, with what equipment could they remove maybe three feet of compacted sand/salt/snow/ice mix? Such sidewalk icing is the last thing to thaw.

That being said, in Aspen Hill -- itself a part of District Four and thus all of a part with the rest of East Montgomery County -- some of the Snow Emergency Routes didn't get plowed until mid-Monday, and many of the secondary streets are still unplowed.

Heathfield Road -- a major throughfare and a favorite route of both police and fire/rescue vehicles -- was one such Snow Emergency Route left unplowed.

As near as anyone can tell, that's because so many of the Non-English-Speaking residents -- the same ones illegally parking their work fleets on their paved yards -- always leave their vehicles parked in the streets during Snow Emergencies. Evidently the plow came through once when there was only about 6 inches of snow on the ground, and found the hill impossible to navigate due to the cars parked in the streets. And these scofflaws and malcontents being who and what they are, when they dug out their vehicles, they inevitably shovel all of that snow into the street rather than onto the curb. I've seen it year after year. Maybe they'll change their attitude if there's a house fire and the pumpers can't reach them because they can't move on the road. g_d forbid that such a thing should happen, but it's their own nose they're cutting off to spite their face.

This also has to be one of the most-expensive clean-ups in County history, with the least budget allocation available to deal with it.

See also the nicely cleared sidewalks -- including the bus-stop, I'm very scrupulously fastidious about my Civic Duty evein with a corner lot and two sidewalks to shovel-- and snow Emergency routes as of about 2PM Dec 21 (photo JPEG).

And then feel free to read a post wherein I prove that it's almost inevitable that we will be invaded by 60,000 Bolivian Mennonites. I suggest we settle them in Burtonsville.

chippy said...

6:10 PM Tuesday

There are several streets in my neighborhood that have not seen a plow. two of them are Donald and Eldon.

WashingtonGardener said...

There has GOT to be a better way than piling all the snow off the street up OVER The curb onto the sodewalk corners - like get all the snow plows to agree to always pile towards the NW corner. So at least 3 can be cleared and peds can have some hope. Or maybe ise solar power and always push snow to the NORTH side of the street - where homes face south and snow melts at about 3X the rate as the other side (in my guesstimation).
Really how does downtown DC do it? The snow has to go somewhere.