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January 25, 2016

Philly mayor pleads for patience in snow removal efforts

'We're getting to your streets,' said Mayor Jim Kenney. 'We have to get to the big ones first.'

Mayor Jim Kenney is asking Philadelphia residents for their patience as the city continues its cleanup efforts following the fourth-largest snowfall in the city's history.

"We're getting to your streets," Kenney said during a Monday afternoon press conference at City Hall. "We have to take care of our big ones first to get everything rolling. That affects the most number of people."

City officials said they hope all roadways will be passable by the end of Wednesday. Residents are asked not to park near street corners or double-park, which both impede the plowing process. With the city's primary streets mostly passable, priority will shift to secondary and tertiary streets.

But the 22.4 inches of snowfall adds challenges to clearing the city's smaller streets, Deputy Managing Director Clarena Tolson said. The snow is higher than most of the plows used to clear those streets, forcing workers to use Bobcats or front-end loaders instead. 

"That means instead of taking two or three minutes per block to plow a street, now it takes a half hour to 45 minutes," Tolson said.

Many residents have expressed frustration that the city's side streets have not yet been plowed. Directly addressing those concerns, Kenney urged residents to remain patient.

"We haven't forgotten you," Kenney said. "We are coming."

Kenney emphasized the city must first get its primary and secondary streets as clear as possible before moving on to tertiary streets that impact far fewer motorists.

"I recognize if it's your street, it's important to you," Kenney said. "If you're not out yet, you're frustrated. But we have to go through a methodical way to make sure the city gets back to work as soon as possible." 

More than 1,600 city employees worked throughout the weekend, including some 600 workers who operated 390 plows. Police, firefighters and EMS personnel responded to more than 23,000 calls. Another 9,000-plus calls were handled by operators at Philly311.

The city's Snow Emergency ended at 10 p.m. Sunday. 

Kenney praised the response of city personnel, saying various agencies worked to get the city running in a relatively short time frame. He noted that when he was child growing up in South Philly, the city never attempted to plow side streets.

"There were plows and trucks moving snow at 4 a.m. – all night long," Kenney said. "Certainly, if your street is not plowed yet, I understand your frustration. Be patient."

Officials also advised of the following:

• Parking: The Philadelphia Parking Authority is not enforcing meter and kiosk violations on Monday or Tuesday. But it is enforcing safety violations, like blocking crosswalks or fire hydrants. To help crews clear small streets, PPA garages will be $5. Removing cars from small streets helps small plows access streets, officials said.

• Trash collection: Collection of trash and recycling is set to resume Tuesday. Trash trucks that had been repurposed as plows are finishing those efforts on Monday.

• Transit: SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel said about 70 percent of bus routes are operating, but many still have detours and delays because some roads remain impassable. All Regional Rail lines are operating, but the portion of the Paoli line running west of Malvern will not be restored until Amtrak finishes repairs. The Norristown High Speed Line remains open only from the 69th Street Transportation Center to Bryn Mawr.

• Towed Vehicles: Anyone who had a vehicle removed from a snow emergency route may call 215-686-SNOW to locate it.