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City: ‘We Do Not Plow Alleys’

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A snow drift nearly covers a garage door on North Seeley. (Credit: Becky Beaupre Gillespie)

A snow drift nearly covers a garage door on North Seeley. (Credit: Becky Beaupre Gillespie)

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Updated 02/04/11 – 12:40 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – City officials said Friday that its snow plows were still “working as hard as they can” to clear the city’s side streets, but said that plows would not be sent to clear the city’s alleys.

“We do not plow alleys. Plowing alleys … can force snow against garage doors and cause more problems than it solves,” Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Tom Byrne said Friday morning. “We are attempting to track our alleys with garbage trucks so that the vehicles can get into the tracks that they have to drive out.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports

Earlier, mayoral chief of staff Raymond Orozco had said that snow plows would clear alleys after they’ve cleared side streets. Byrne said that was “a miscommunication.”

Many Chicago residents said they couldn’t understand how the city can plow side streets, but not alleys.

“We need more help from the city and I don’t think it’s right, it’s just not right,” Chatham resident Dennis Wallace said.

Wallace and his neighbors spent most of the day digging out three alleys in the Chatham neighborhood.

Neighbor Iran Edwards lives four houses down the alley, “so we’ve got to keep going until we make it.”

He had been at it an hour and had only cleared the sidewalk leading to the alley.

“There was big snow bank here, so you just have to do what you can do and take breaks in between time,” he said.

Neighbor Monte Wilson was so frustrated that he grabbed his camera, videotaped the mess and posted it on YouTube and Facebook.

“It would take an industrial snow plow to come get this snow out of here,” Wilson said. “I could understand digging out the back of your gate, the back of your garage, but the alley, it’s 4 feet worth of snow.”

In the Roseland neighborhood, frustrations were equally high and so was the snow.

Tony Claytor already has missed three days of work, and fears he’ll miss more if the city doesn’t clear his alley.

He didn’t buy the city’s argument that plowing alleys would do more harm than good because it would block garages with piles of snow.

“I think every resident in the area would rather have five feet of snow rather than 50 yards of snow. Come on, we can dig out from five feet. We can’t dig out from 50 yards,” Claytor said. “Just run a truck through here. Something is better than nothing to knock some of this snow down.”

As for the city’s side streets, Byrne acknowledged that not every side street had been cleared as of Friday morning, even though plows had been working on side streets since early Thursday morning.

“I would say the majority of them are open as we speak,” Byrne said. “I would say the majority of them are open as we speak.”

Byrne said that certain areas of the city were hit harder by the blizzard than others, so plows have been trying to get to those streets first.

“Depending on the road conditions, we might need to direct extra crews, snow trucks and heavy equipment from one site to another,” Byrne said. “Our snow-clearing operations are guided by the conditions that we encounter on the streets.”

Ward superintendents and division superintendents are providing hourly updates on the progress of clearing side streets across the city, he added.

Byrne noted that Chicago has more than 3,300 miles of side streets, so “clearing that much snow from that vast amount of area takes time.”

Meantime, Chicago Transit Authority President Rich Rodriguez said Friday that all CTA buses and trains were running on normal schedules again, including Lake Shore Drive express buses.

Rodriguez said there were no major delays reported during Friday’s morning rush, although trains on the Red and Blue Lines were crowded due to heavy ridership.

CTA workers were continuing to shovel out CTA bus stops, bus shelters and train stations.

“We’ve made lots of progress clearing our bus stops and shelters,” Rodriguez said, adding that 370 staff members and volunteers were working to clear bus stops and rail station entrances.

“We are steadily making our way across the system,” Rodriguez said.

Chicago’s airports also were fully operational on Friday, according to Jose Santiago, executive director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Airlines were running full schedules on Friday and the roads, parking lots and parking garages at both Midway and O’Hare International Airports were fully accessible, Santiago said.

City garbage crews were also sent out Friday morning to try and pick up garbage wherever possible, Byrne said. Because city officials knew the storm was coming, Byrne said garbage trucks were sent to the city’s alleys on Monday and Tuesday to pick up as much garbage as possible.

Byrne estimated that trash was picked up from about half of the city’s alleys on those two days.

Trash pickup crews were back at full strength on Friday and would try to get garbage trucks into as many alleys as possible for trash pickup on Friday, Byrne said.

(CBS 2 Web Producer Todd Feurer and CBS 2’s Mai Martinez contributed to this report.)

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