This morning we were surprised with snow. Sub-zero temperatures and freezing rain were predicted, but snow we had not really expected. Internet was clear that the Dutch railways were unable to cope with snow and black ice, and also on the roads there were big problems. Quickly I went out to have a look myself at the situation in the village. Because snow is not so very common and it was a free Saturday morning, parents took their children out to enjoy the thin layer of snow.
My interest was particularly to Hoofdstraat, earlier mentioned as the “axis of evil”. 4 Years ago under similar circumstances a fourteen-year-old girl was killed by a lorry driver. As I was on the site to see how I could take a good picture of the situation, a motorist stopped in an unpleasant place.
Fortunately, he drove further and parked away. The driver proved to be alderman Boonzaaijer, who recognized me and stopped for a short chat. He said he was on his way to inspect the road himself too. Since the elections in March 2014, he is in charge of Public Works in the municipality of Utrechtse Heuvelrug and he is trying to make the difference. In his first budget he has included money for a brine spraying car, especially for bicycle paths, which was ordered two weeks ago. Spraying brine is much more efficient on cycle paths than the classic gritting of salt, as salt requires mixture with snow by wheels to become effective.
Maybe the vehicle comes too late for this winter season, but it is a good start. Also, there has finally made a proposal to make Hoofdstraat a more safe street. Although the budget is limited, improvements are now on their way.
A point of attention in winter maintenance is the lack of coordination between the province and the municipality. Outside urban areas, the Hoofdstraat is owned by the province, which makes the province responsible for the snowplough. It sometimes happens at intersections that the snow is pushed by the provincial team in a place that is just cleared by the municipal snowplough, or vice versa. To improve the information I suggested the alderman to open up the GPS data of the snowplough fleet, as happened in Helsinki. There you can see how long it has been since the snowplough was in which street. Oh, by the way, Januari 1st my job was moved from the region of Utrecht to the province of Utrecht as a result of the national law that moved the traffic and transport responsibilities. Last week we were told civil-servants shouldn’t talk with municipal politicians any more, the unwritten provincial policy says this is prohibited to provincial politicians. Sorry for that, we were also told we should not change our work habits, and I love transparancy and getting results.