City’s Snow Removal Process Balances Safety, Economics, and Expectations

The Dec 9 snowstorm dropped 12 inches of the white stuff on Golden Valley, and since then Golden Valley’s Public Works staff has worked methodically to clear local streets and sidewalks according to plan for optimum safety. But a spate of calls this week from residents indicates that some in the community expect all streets to be cleared to bare pavement after a snowfall.

“The first priority is keeping roads safe for driving, and to some people that means bare pavement,” says Bert Tracy, Golden Valley’s Public Works maintenance manager. That expectation could be influenced by the maintenance of metro area freeways and county roads.

Freeways carry around 150,000 vehicles a day traveling at 55 miles per hour (mph) or faster. County State Aid highways, such as Winnetka Ave, Douglas Dr, and Medicine Lake Rd, among others, carry about 8,000 to 10,000 vehicles per day. The majority of Golden Valley’s local streets, with a posted speed of 30 mph, carry less than 1,000 vehicles per day. Therefore, the techniques to manage snow and ice must vary to fit the circumstance.

“Snow removal is all about balancing expectations, reality, economics, and environmental concerns,” explains Public Works Director Jeannine Clancy. ”Golden Valley does not have a bare pavement policy because traffic volumes and speeds don’t warrant it on the local streets we maintain. Furthermore, there is a desire to limit the amount of chemicals placed on local streets because of environmental impacts to water bodies, including rivers, lakes, and streams. However, other jurisdictions that manage streets with higher volumes and faster speeds need a bare pavement policy to protect the safety of the traveling public.”

To keep traffic moving, City crews first plow collector and arterial streets that connect neighborhoods to State and County roads. State and County roads (Hwy 55, Winnetka Ave, etc) are maintained by those organizations, not by the City.

Depending on weather conditions, de-icing crews use a variation of salt/sand-salt mixture on icy areas. Priority areas are treated first, and all other areas are done when time permits. Priority areas include:

  • intersections of City streets and County and State roads
  • school and pedestrian crossings
  • bridge decks
  • arterial street stop sign intersections
  • street intersections having higher than average traffic volumes, and streets with hills and curves
  • all other stop signs and areas deemed hazardous by public works or police staff

Cooperation from the public greatly helps the snow removal process, says Tracy. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Reduce speed and keep a minimum distance of 50 feet from snowplows and sand trucks (frequent backing is necessary, and rear visibility is very limited).
  • Never drive into a snow cloud or pass vehicles while they’re plowing.
  • Stay away from the end of a driveway when a snowplow is approaching.
  • Keep sleds and toys away from the street when they’re not being used.
  • Never build snow forts or snow sculptures in the snow piles on the boulevard.
  • Keep garbage cans and recycling carts in the driveway and off roadways and sidewalks if it snows on collection days.
  • Listen to weather forecasts so you’re not in transit when a storm hits.

Get more information here about snow removal in Golden Valley, or call Public Works Street Maintenance at 763-593-8081.

This entry posted in | Community | Public Works