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Looming winter storm could be first big test for Cleveland's updated snow removal plan

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Posted at 5:51 PM, Dec 20, 2022

CLEVELAND — All eyes are on the major winter storm arriving this weekend and how the City of Cleveland’s Division of Public Works responds to it. The upcoming winter blast marks the first big test for the city’s updated and modernized snow removal plan after shortcomings last season prompted a comprehensive review over the summer.

A brewing winter storm that meteorologists believe will bring extreme cold, strong winds and some snow will arrive in Northeast Ohio late Thursday night and into Saturday. Although the projected snowfall totals remain uncertain, transportation leaders are anticipating a full deployment of their snow removal operations.

Cleveland residents will be keeping a keen eye on the effectiveness of the city’s plowing operation after two major storms last winter left much of the city paralyzed for days on end.

“I couldn’t get out of my yard or anything for two days,” said Wallace Williams, a longtime resident of Old Brooklyn, which was the epicenter for the two major winter storms last season. “I guess I’m rather optimistic about it… I really hope they’re going to do a clean up job on the snow removal. It’s been a problem in the past where they haven’t done a good job.”

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Frank Williams, the city’s public works director, told members of the city council’s Municipal Services and Properties Committee that the city’s snow removal operations was subject to a comprehensive review in the off-season, culminating in a major re-design of the different snow removal routes that drivers follow. In the fallout of the two winter storms back in January, it was revealed that plow drivers were still relying on paper maps of their designated routes, some of which had not been reviewed or adjusted in at least 20 years.

Using the services of a third-party vendor, RUBICONSmartCity, the optimization of the snow removal routes will better balance the routes across the city, providing drivers with in-cab, turn-by-turn directions and updated information during the snow event.

“One of the things we are looking at is being more efficient,” Williams said in the October hearing. “We had been using routes that were upwards of 20 years old at least. The city has changed, the geography has changed. The typography — or the type of streets — has changed.”

Instead of paper maps, plow drivers will utilize in-cab GPS modules, which will show them what streets have been treated and those that are still in need of service. This information will be especially critical during shift changes.

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With accurate, up-to-date information, Williams anticipates drivers will be far more efficient, allowing them to treat more areas of the city in a shorter amount of time. That could prove vital in neighborhoods that are especially difficult to plow, including the Little Italy neighborhood.

“We were planning on being open by now but I guess it’s a blessing in disguise that we don’t have to deal with this (winter storm),” said Lucas Smith, the co-owner of Campus Pollyeyes Express, a franchise location of the renown Campus Pollyeyes at Bowling Green State University.

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Smith is just weeks away from the restaurant’s grand opening and he will be paying close attention to the snow removal operation in Little Italy. The fast casual restaurant — which Smith calls an ‘expresstaurant’ — is known for its world famous stuffed breadsticks.

“I will be [keeping an eye on the weather]. I have only been down here in the warmer months so I guess I’m about to find out what I’m about to get into,” Smith said. “We are anticipating late January or early February for our grand opening. Hopefully the snow is melting slowly by then.”