With the city fielding more than 1,000 calls about unplowed streets this week, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl intends to pull out all the stops -- and a few more snow plows as well -- to make sure it doesn't happen again.
An admittedly frustrated and upset mayor said yesterday that city workers will inventory all public works vehicles to see if some, including garbage trucks, could have snowplows mounted on them to help clear streets.
Then, by next winter, Mr. Ravenstahl wants an automated snow removal routing system in place to determine the most efficient way to use the fleet. He made clear one ironclad policy: Snowplow drivers will no longer deviate from their assigned routes, no matter who's calling to complain about their own street.
"If they go off their route, there will be repercussions," he promised.
Mr. Ravenstahl also announced the promotion of Rob Kaczorowski to deputy director of operations at the Department of Public Works. Mr. Kaczorowski will be responsible for supervising snow and ice removal, as well as all other operations, but will not receive a pay increase.
Mike Gable, the current deputy director, becomes the deputy director of administration. Both still report to Public Works Director Guy Costa.
The city's Department of Public Works has 55 trucks to clear 1,200 miles of city streets. But this week, some side streets still were not plowed three days after Tuesday's 5-inch snowfall, said Mr. Ravenstahl, who toured some city neighborhoods Thursday afternoon to check street conditions.
"We need to do better, and, as far as I'm concerned, we will do better."
The season's heaviest snowstorm caused havoc midweek, prompting school closings and power outages that included the U.S. Courthouse, Downtown.
Because of icy road conditions, the Port Authority on Tuesday asked riders to walk to bus stops on main thoroughfares because buses were having trouble navigating unplowed side roads.
On Wednesday, state police responded to nearly 50 vehicle accidents, most of them minor -- about 10 times the number they'd see on a more typical day.
Pittsburgh Public School officials also came under fire from parents upset that there was no weather delay on Wednesday, when roads iced up just as the buses were heading out. Some buses were unable to pick up students because of the hazardous road conditions, leaving some students waiting in the cold.
Those driving the snowplows "wanted to do a good job. They wanted to clear the streets," Mr. Ravenstahl said. But he intends to make sure the city does a better job keeping streets free of snow and ice.
"Everything is on the table at this point. My goal is clearly that we have to do a better job."
Steve Twedt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1963.