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Originally published January 5, 2009 at 1:47 PM | Page modified January 6, 2009 at 12:34 AM

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Seattle transportation director to council: Snow removal was adequate

Arterials were safe and bridges were open during December's snowstorms, Seattle Department of Transportation Director Grace Crunican told the City Council this morning.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Arterials were safe and bridges were open during December's snowstorms, Seattle Department of Transportation Director Grace Crunican said this morning.

Some sidestreets were difficult to drive on, but she said she wouldn't recommend clearing more residential streets in future storms. The city isn't equipped for it, she said.

Overall, the transportation department's response was adequate, Crunican said.

Crunican was one of two city department directors to face questioning from the Seattle City Council this morning as it began a review of the city's reaction to the storm. The council also questioned the director of the Department of Emergency Management. On Tuesday, members will speak with human services and utilities directors, as well as SDOT and Metro Transit officials.

The meetings are all part of the political aftermath of December's historic snowstorms, which over two weeks left nearly a foot of snow on the ground in Seattle. Since the storm, Mayor Greg Nickels announced the city would reverse one of its most controversial policies and begin using salt on icy streets when there is a lot of snow.

Last night, city workers spread salt on streets in some areas where more than four inches of snow fell.

At this morning's meeting, council members described numerous complaints from residents about impassable roads and patchy bus service.

"It seemed like there wasn't a liaison between SDOT and Metro," said Councilmember Nick Licata. He described a bus trip he took during which passengers were suggesting alternate routes to the driver.

Crunican said she was in contact with top King County Metro officials, but the city plans to include a Metro liaison at its Charles Street operations center next time to make sure snow routes are plowed.

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen questioned Crunican about being out of town for a couple of days during the storm. She went to Portland to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with her family, she explained, but said her deputies were in charge and she was kept in the loop via e-mail and phone calls.

Asked by a reporter whether it made her appear disconnected to be out of town, Crunican said: "I don't drive a snowplow."

The council plans to hold a briefing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday with SDOT and the Office of Emergency Management as well as the Human Services Department, Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light. The public will be able to comment.

Next Monday, the council will discuss improving storm response. And on Friday, Feb. 20, councilmembers hope to vote on an "action plan" for future storm response.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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