Monday, December 03, 2007

Madison’s Politically Correct Street Mess

The weekend storm with a nasty mixture of snow and ice made quite the mess. This is Wisconsin and with the experience of countless winters past, the citizens and public servants dutifully went out and cleaned it up. As with all human activities, some places did the job better than others. In Madison, they pretty much did everything badly.

Fraley's Daily Takes: Six inches of snow 48 hours ago should not leave the roads of Madison in such terrible shape. … Madison streets superintendent Al Schumacher is quoted in today’s Wisconsin State Journal as saying most of the main roads should be “really good” today. He’s right. They should be. But they aren’t.

For some reason the plow drivers in Wisconsin’s second largest city are not capable of clearing out the left traffic and left turn lanes. As if that weren’t dangerous enough, there are places on East Wash where an entire lane is coated with three inches of ice. Salt may not be environmentally friendly. But how friendly is a street strewn with disabled cars and injured citizens, Mayor Dave?

Capital Times: Madison streets Superintendent Al Schumacher was taking a lot of heat today because of roads that resemble cow pastures, but he said the alternative was super-slick roads with many more accidents. "The streets are not good," Schumacher said this morning. "It was a difficult storm."

The environment also has a lot to do with salt-free side streets. "We don't salt every single city street for a reason," Schumacher said. "We want to protect our groundwater and our lakes." Similar conditions hit Madison in February, when a late winter storm dumped the same mix that we experienced Saturday. It took about two weeks for all streets to be cleared then, but Schumacher hopes roads will be back to normal sooner than later.

Having been through a number of Madison storms and I am willing to cut the workers some slack in the big ones. Right now, however, the city streets are in exceptionally poor condition even given the magnitude and mixture of the frozen onslaught. The fact our neighboring communities are in much better shape is a reflection not of the task, but rather the dedication to the task.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s primary allegiance is to his environmental convictions. The needs of the citizens and residents of our city continue to be secondary priorities of his administration. The decision not to clear the mass of snow from the roads prior to the watery mixture freezing into immovable hazards may have come from the streets department, but only because the Mayor finds these conditions acceptable.