City’s snow removal priorities are skewed


To the editor:

This recent snow emergency reveals the true values of our city’s leaders. They like to claim that we are a green community committed to pedestrians, cyclists, buses, etc. But I’m sure Alexandrians will note that the stated priority does not equate to reality. As soon as the snow emergency was declared, Metro and city buses shut down. Plowing started in earnest and the city and state attempted to clear snow from every single road, making only car traffic possible. Reading through the paper shows many back-slapping self-congratulations. There are many, however who do not share this feeling of satisfaction. 

Obviously, bus riders, pedestrians and cyclists had to fend for themselves amongst the cars that continued driving. Instead of having a few major thoroughfares that were fully operational, we had 80 percent of roads slightly operational, which was not operational enough for DASH to operate. DASH claimed myriad reasons to not offer service, including unsafe bus stops. 

For Alexandria to keep its promise to the large array of groups and programs it purports to support, the priorities of snow removal must be reconsidered.

Here is the order of snow removal that I propose as the most effective, safe, resource-reducing and beneficial for all the city’s residents:1.) Snow removal assistance for those who are suffering a fire or police emergency. 2.) Support for power company staff to restore critical heat and electricity.3.) Clearance of all major thoroughfares to verify that all major bus routes and Metro Access vehicles are operational while making sure that minimal bus waiting areas are carved out. 4.) Enforce or clear (at owner cost) at least one sidewalk along major thoroughfares at all times.

If we want a green community, it cannot be only for three seasons of the year. We need a transit solution for all days of the year. The absence of buses increased drivers, plus how much did we pay DASH and WMATA employees for those down days? If removing snow demands that we shut down streets and allow only buses, pedestrians and emergency vehicles until safe, so be it. In the coming month, I hope we see a full audit of all plow activity funding, the work conditions of our city employees and the vision and priority that guides our disaster recovery program.

I know most Alexandrians will initially chalk up the horrible response to this disaster as just “nature gone amok,” but given more thought, I think we can all see that a dramatic shift must be made in priorities and emergency planning.

Rich Williamson