Winter sidewalk pilot programs will need funding to ensure safe routes for the 2024-2025 season

The City of Minneapolis is considering a menu of pilot programs to ensure sidewalks are clear of snow and ice during the winter months. If all five were funded, it would require $2.6 million annually. These were presented to the City Council’s Public Works Committee today. Decisions about next year’s budget will be made later this year — with Mayor Frey’s recommendations coming in August and a City Council vote to amend and approve in December.

Strategies include targeted assistance for seniors, a focus on pedestrian priority routes and repeat violators with proactive shoveling, outreach to non-compliant property owners, and hiring staff to analyze how incentives and fines can be used to get better results.

The $2.6 million number is a rough estimate for all five pilot programs, which could be scaled up or down. This is significantly less than the $40+ million annual cost estimate for clearing of all properties as a city service.

Council Member Chughtai asked for her colleagues to consider “formalizing” these items “as things we hope to see” in the Mayor’s budget for 2024. in this upcoming year. “I’d love for us to decide if that’s a path we want to go down together.”

Council Member Johnson agreed with Chughtai about the Council formalizing their support for pilot funding in the mayor’s recommended budget. “It’s not lost on anyone in this room that we’re a winter city…” Property owners clearing their sidewalks is “not where it needs to be.”

There’s at most a dozen neighborhood orgs with staff or volunteer capacity to take on a program to assist seniors, according to Steven Gallagher of the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations Department. He said three or four orgs are currently doing some form of shoveling assistance. Minneapolis has 70 neighborhood organizations. It would take time to build up capacity among the other orgs.

The earliest these programs would go into action would be the 2024-2025 winter season, which is 12 years after I moved here and immediately freaked out about what a major accessibility issue and danger to the public this is. I’m assuming Minneapolis had snow before I lived here too.

Potential pilot programs are described in more detail on pages 47 and 56-58 of this document.