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Mayor Justin Bibb pledges to improve Cleveland's 'broken' snow removal plan

A rider boards a Greater Cleveland RTA bus on the West Side on Thursday.
Nick Castele
Ideastream Public Media
A rider boards a Greater Cleveland RTA bus on the West Side on Thursday.

Saying Cleveland’s response to the weekend’s snowstorm “wasn’t good enough,” Mayor Justin Bibb on Thursday pledged to improve the city’s snow removal plan.

“I inherited a broken system that needs significant overhaul and investment,” the mayor said in a video posted to social media. “I heard you. We need a better snow removal plan to ensure we are more prepared for the next storm.”

Bibb, who traveled to Washington, D.C., this week for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, is in his third week on the job.

He said he plans to review the snow response with his public works department, public safety officials and new chief of city operations. A public update on improvements to the snow plan will come next week, he said.

“I heard your comments, your concerns and your frustrations,” Bibb said. “I’m frustrated too. For too long, we’ve neglected to invest in high-quality, basic city services. That’s why I ran to be your mayor, and that’s why I won’t squander this opportunity to deliver on the services you deserve.”

Bibb’s chief operating officer is Bonnie Teeuwen. A former Ohio Department of Transportation official and Cuyahoga County public works director, she joined the administration this week.

The mayor’s interim director of public works, which runs the snowplow operation, is Michael Cox, a holdover from the previous mayor’s administration. Cox is expected to brief city council on the snow response next week, according to two council members.

The snowfall pummeled Cleveland from late Sunday through Monday morning, stranding cars and buses on city streets. The city deployed all of its snowplows in response, according to the mayor’s office.

By Monday night, 15 inches of snow had fallen on the city, according to unofficial observations by the National Weather Service. As of Wednesday evening, city plows were working to make second passes at residential streets, the city said.

The snowstorm brought public transit service to a standstill. With 50 buses stuck in the snow early Monday morning, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority suspended service for most of the day.

Advocates for transit riders are calling for RTA to explain why service effectively collapsed. Alex Rubin, a member of Clevelanders for Public Transit, said the group hopes RTA trustees will address the issue at next week’s board meeting.

“This could have been managed a lot better in terms of keeping people informed,” Rubin said of RTA’s response, “letting riders and Clevelanders know how they’re going to be able to get home, or get to work, or get to the grocery store, anything they need to do.”

A spokesman for RTA is working to arrange an interview with Ideastream Public Media about the agency’s response.

Rubin said snow- and ice-covered sidewalks around bus stops remain an issue. At a West Side bus stop on Detroit Avenue, a reporter observed a rider navigating an icy snowbank to board a bus Thursday.

“Cleveland is a cold weather, snowy city,” Rubin said. “So we need to be able to run transit service in the snow.”

Copyright 2022 WCPN. To see more, visit WCPN.

Updated: January 20, 2022 at 4:10 PM EST
This story was updated at 4:09 pm.
Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.