When the city of Idaho Falls completed its snow removal Wednesday afternoon, it officially towed the fewest cars during a “snow event” within the last four winter seasons.
The Idaho Falls Police Department reported 55 cars were towed in Zone A, the four neighborhoods surrounding downtown Idaho Falls and stretching east to Holmes Avenue, on Tuesday and 75 cars on Wednesday. That two-day total is 25 fewer cars than previous lowest number of vehicles towed for snow removal, which happened in late January 2017.
There have been nine snowstorms that resulted in parking restrictions in Idaho Falls since the city overhauled its removal policy in December 2016. The updates to the snow removal policy in 2016 allowed the Zone A neighborhood streets to be cleared as part of every snow removal, instead of relying on a special “snow proclamation” from the mayor once or twice a year.
“It’s helped to make them a high priority. Before the residential areas typically had to get 5 or 6 inches before we got into them. Now we’re getting into them sooner and making the roadway a lot more passable,” Street Superintendent Brian Cardon said.
Because the Zone A roads are also some of the narrowest streets in the city, that change also meant that cars on those streets needed to move out of the way of the plows during every storm or get ticketed and towed. In the Zone A neighborhoods, the north-south roads are cleared on the first even-numbered day of the snow removal process and the east-west roads on the first odd day.
Cardon said the low number of towed vehicles could because the city removed some of the wider streets from the zone in mid-December, meaning fewer cars were eligible to get towed. He also credited the city’s online map and other communication efforts in getting the word out about upcoming snow removals.
Over the last four winters, the number of cars towed also has gone down as the winter goes along. The previous lowest number of vehicles that were towed came during the fourth snowstorm in the winter of 2016-2017, and the latest removal was the third of this winter.
The city of Idaho Falls budgets $525,000 each year to cover the cost of subcontractors needed to help with plowing snow and towing cars during the winter. Those funds roll over from the years with light snow to cover years with heavier and more frequent storms with a cap at $1 million.
In the first winter under the updated policy, the city spent $918,000 on snow removal contractors and $1.5 million overall. In the next two years, the city spent a combined $74,000 on contractors and less than $1.2 million during the storms. Cardon said this winter should end up being similar.
“We typically get a little bit of a break between storms, not a continuous series of them like this has been, but we’re on track for a normal number of storms,” Cardon said.
Zone A and B neighborhoods fall into the lowest priority for the city’s snow removal policy and will be addressed within the first 72 hours after the end of a storm. Priority 1 streets are the major roadways through town that see at least 5,000 cars per day. Priority 2 streets are minor arterial streets, like 25th Street or downtown Idaho Falls, along with roads that pass schools and medical facilities.