A Reminder That Holland Has Heated Roads and Sidewalks In The Winter
Why can't we all have this? Seriously. It should come as part of our residency in the state of Michigan. One of the snowiest states in the country (thanks to Lake Effect), and there's only ONE city, in the entire state, that thought to themselves... "Huh... what if we heated the sidewalks and roads to melt the snow year round?"
God bless Holland and its innovation for the Snowmelt system.
It just seems too easy, right? Pump hot water through a series of pipes underground, just below the surface of roads and sidewalks, and BOOM... no need for snowplows, harmful ice-melting chemicals, and FAR too much labor in shoveling snow. (That's the biggest draw, if you ask me.)
Holland has had the Snowmelt system in place since the late 1980s, and it's been functioning in some capacity since 1989, making the oldest parts of this incredible idea 34 years old. There are entire generations who grew up in Holland, now, who have never NOT known the city with PILES of dirty, scooped snow around downtown.
In 2016, they expanded the network of underground heating pipes to almost five miles, and AGAIN put themselves on the map by pumping the same heated water through their newly renovated Civic Center. The system is SO efficient, it actually uses water FROM melting snow... that it melted... to pump back INTO the heated pipelines, and will now heat the building.
It's also massively energy efficient, so the potential to save money and energy for all businesses along the Snowmelt network is astronomical! Theoretically, every building in downtown (or on any extension of Snowmelt) could be heated by the very snow it is melting, and lower energy usage costs.
So WHY don't more cities utilize this system if it's so good? For the same reason ANYTHING does or doesn't happen in a city... money. In the short run, it's cheaper each season to run plows, and spread salt, than it is to completely rebuild a city's infrastructure. And for bigger towns and cities, this makes total sense.
Kalamazoo, for example, has a WIDE footprint, and we've seen traffic diversion projects before that affected downtown. But imagine the headache of completely closing, and tearing up these roads? You thought it took forever for Sprinkle Road to get finished? Or Stadium Drive? It's just too expensive.
So for now, Holland remains the exception, and good for them. They probably need it more, anyway... I can't imagine those wooden shoes are GREAT at keeping your feet warm and dry in the snow anyway. (JOKING!)