Salt shortage in Waterloo Region a risk for residents

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Graphic by Kash Patel

Due to unpredictable weather patterns which have caused dangerous road conditions, as well as a region-wide shortage of winter rock salt, sidewalk and road safety have become a pressing issue within Waterloo Region this year.

This has left Kitchener-Waterloo residents, businesses, city contractors and commuters with the unfortunate consequence of dealing with more hazardous travelling conditions — and may have lasting effects on the future price of salt.

Nicole Amaral, interim communications director at the City of Kitchener, released a “Winter operations – status update” on Feb. 20, providing information behind the cause, impact and implications of this shortage.

Amaral noted that the cause of the shortage in the municipalities is “due to difficulty in obtaining adequate volume from [their] supplier.” Furthermore, the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge are currently cooperating in the hopes of fixing the issue as soon as possible and to maximize salt supplies.

Beyond the mix of snow and rain that the region has been enduring this year, the extreme temperature drops have further complicated the effectiveness of traditional road salt.

“In extreme cold (-12 or colder) salt is ineffective in melting ice, creating a reliance on sand to address issues on residential/priority 3 roads,” Amaral said in the release.

Residents have been particularly vulnerable to this, as the city noted a sliding scale in the priorities of clearing roads: priority one, which includes “mains and arterials”; priority two, which includes “hills, curves & GRT routes”; and priority three, which are residential or “backstreet” roads.

Citizens of the region may have to endure the salt shortage for the time being. Unfortunately, a coordinated response to this incident may come without a solution for an indefinite period of time, especially since the issue appears to be province-wide at the least.

Construction 

Following approval at the next city council meeting, the region will begin installation of the barriers along the existing bike lane area in uptown Waterloo sometime this year.

As construction continues down from Bridgeport Road to University Avenue, the bollards will be added following an evaluation of their efficacy in protecting cyclists and pedestrians.

This was seen as a necessary by many residents of the region, especially those who actively participate in cycling — especially since the region invested nearly $11 million into the construction of segregated bike lanes and expanded sidewalk areas.

This change to the current bike lane system was decided upon due to two main concerns: vehicles using it for parking or an idling lane, as well as risk of injury from cars.

The bollards will provide greater physical separation from roadways, which will provide an additional layer of safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

The current expected cost of the project is $250,000, but that figure may change in the future.

In a release from the Region of Waterloo following the approval of the 2019 budget on Feb. 19, the region stated that these kinds of changes “will help provide the enhanced citizen services and infrastructure necessary to meet the needs of our community.”

“We are listening and responding to community needs,” said Karen Redman, regional chair, in the release.

“We continually monitor and meet demands for services to ensure a high quality of life for the people of Waterloo Region.”

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