GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As many in West Michigan woke up to the familiar sight of snow-covered sidewalks Wednesday morning, crews in downtown Grand Rapids were working to clear some of the snow.
When more than two inches of snow covers the ground, workers clear about 100 miles of sidewalks in Grand Rapids. It’s part of the Sidewalk Snow Support Pilot Program, modeled after similar ones in Wyoming and East Grand Rapids.
About two months into the pilot program’s third and final year, Grand Rapids Director of Public Works John Gorney said feedback has been positive.
“Yeah, going very successful,” Gorney said. “Obviously, it depends on the amount of snow we get. If we get a lot of snow, we’re going to be lagging in the time that it takes to get out there and get everything off the sidewalk. But for the most part we’ve been able to keep up with the snow that does come.”
The city is focusing on busy streets downtown, including Michigan Street and Division Avenue. The stretch goes as far north as Knapp Street and south down Kalamazoo Avenue.
Public works is also prioritizing areas with older adults as well as people with disabilities, making it easier for those using wheelchairs to get around.
Crews clear out most of the snow, leaving a half inch for residents to handle themselves.
“The expectation is that the property owner is still ultimately responsible for maintaining the sidewalk,” Gorney said. “We leave that small half inch of snow because of the equipment we use. If we put the blade directly on the sidewalk, we could damage the sidewalk.”
This year, city workers are involved for the first time, clearing busy sidewalks downtown. In the past, a contractor was responsible for covering it all.
This final trial run goes through April. The city will then need to make a decision on whether to make it permanent or even expand coverage.
The big question is where the money would come from. Gorney said covering more sidewalks would bring a “significant” cost. But if the community wants to pay for it, he said the city can make it happen. Public works officials would look to add staff and equipment.
“Overall, we have over 900 miles of sidewalk in the city, and that would be an extremely expensive venture for the city,” Gorney said. “But I believe there will be some sort of program one way or the other.”
Crews work in 12 hour shifts, so you can expect to see them out on the sidewalks again from 7 p.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday.