Grand Rapids sidewalk snow removal program continuing

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The City of Grand Rapids is continuing a program aimed at making sidewalks safer during major snow events.

In early 2020, Grand Rapids launched a program designed to clear sidewalks of snow in areas with high pedestrian traffic, and neighborhoods with larger populations of school children and the elderly.

“Not everybody has a car, not everybody has a bike that they ride,” said John Gorney, director of Grand Rapids Public Works Department. “That was the intent, how can we help those who are having a difficult time getting around?”

A snowy sidewalk in Grand Rapids. (Jan. 18, 2024)
A snowy sidewalk in Grand Rapids. (Jan. 18, 2024)

It began with around 100 miles of sidewalks being plowed in the city; that number has since increased dramatically.

“We doubled this year, so we’re at 200 miles of sidewalks out of over 900 miles of sidewalks in the city,” Gorney said.

The focus of the program has also evolved. This year, the sidewalk snow support program is targeting some streets where plows may have pushed snow onto sidewalks.

“We’re helping out the businesses and residents who are along those major corridors that are getting snow on their sidewalks, more than what’s falling from the sky,” Gorney said.

When it snows at least two inches, the program calls for employees with the Grand Rapids Public Works Department, as well as two contractors, to plow targeted sidewalks.

A map shows the streets where the city of Grand Rapids shovels sidewalks after a snowfall. (Courtesy city of Grand Rapids)
A map shows the streets where the city of Grand Rapids shovels sidewalks after a snowfall. (Courtesy city of Grand Rapids)

“If it continues to snow then we just keep calling them back and the way the contract is, is that they get paid for the time that they’re here,” Gorney said.

The program costs the city around $200,000 a year and is paid for through major and local street funds.

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“Those are generally going to be from fuel tax,” Gorney said.

Gorney added that it’s also important to know that crews will clean up the heavy, wet snow, but residents and business owners are responsible for what’s left.

“Even though we have the snow assist program, it’s just that, it’s an assistance program. It’s not necessarily to take the place of the responsibility of the property owner,” Gorney said.

Although the program is unlikely to reach the entire city, Gorney says further expansion is not out of the question but that would depend on factors like funding.

The sidewalk snow support initiative is also no longer a pilot, and is expected to remain in place.

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