Slipping and sliding around Campustown

After what had been a beautiful Thanksgiving break across Illinois, Mother Nature decided that the day everyone came back was the best day for the first snow of the season. You might’ve been awoken Monday morning by the sounds of police responding to the numerous accidents that plagued the area.

Unfortunately, the sound of sirens may be more common around town because the city of Champaign announced plans last week that it will not be salting secondary streets and residential areas this winter.

Like too many things this year, the main culprit is the economy. According to City Public Works, the price of salt per ton has risen from $44 to $64, a whopping 47 percent increase. That means that 150 miles of streets in the city limits will remain iced until it melts on its own.

Even with the reduced salting, the city will still need to spend an extra $40,000 this year to keep the main roadways clear.

For campustown residents, this means that it will be more dangerous to cross the street as tires are spinning on the slush and black ice. This increased risk also carries over to the bus system.

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Obviously, this makes the overall situation in Champaign less safe, especially after weather like we had this week. And it’s not only students who have to be more careful walking to class, it’s thousands of residents who will be at risk on slippery streets.

The cost versus safety debate raged last winter when the city council passed a snow removal ordinance that required business owners to clear sidewalks in front of their property within 48 hours following an announcement from the city. Those property owners in the University and downtown districts that don’t do so now face fines in addition to paying for the city to clear their walkways.

Enforcement of this ordinance last winter was a mixed bag. City officials focused more on businesses downtown instead of apartment buildings and Greek houses in campustown, especially during winter break. But now the city has been financially forced to compromise on basic safety precautions.

We may get lucky and have a mild winter, but if not, drivers face an uncertain and unsafe few months.

And if traffic accidents do go up as a result of the non-salting, next year city officials should decide to put the welfare of its residents above its budget concerns.

Whereas red ink is something that can be planned and adjusted for, Mother Nature is far less predictable. And to everyone else, please, please, slow down.