As Arapahoe County Public Works and Development (PWD) turns its attention to its snow removal plan, workers are hoping the traveling public will exercise patience during big storms this winter—or better yet, stay off the roads entirely and work from home when possible.
Since the end of September, 33 crew members for Road and Bridge have been preparing for the winter snow plan, which is geared to keep major and secondary roads in unincorporated parts of the County clear of snow and ice during the winter season. However, a workforce shortage will hamper efforts in clearing roads this winter as the division is down 10 full-time positions.
“The message we have for the public is try to be patient this winter,” said Michael Haraldson, Road and Bridge operations manager. “We encourage anyone who can work from home to do so. With Covid, workers have proven they can be just as productive working from home.”
The County has 11 snowplow routes. When fully staffed, we assign two plow drivers per route per shift, which is 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Because of the staffing shortage, many of the snowplow routes this winter will have one driver assigned per shift. The staffing shortage is not just a challenge for Arapahoe County. Last week, Haraldson attended a snow conference in Loveland with Road and Bridge counterparts from across the state. An emerging theme for the conference was the lack of drivers to operate snowplows and graders across the state.
The Road and Bridge division is actively hiring to fill the vacant positions but also faces stiff competition from other government agencies and the private sector to hire drivers with a Class B CDL license. Road and Bridge is actively conducting interviews to bring in new employees and offers training for workers to obtain the commercial license.
Given the current staffing level, County crews will focus on clearing roads that are designated as “Ones” and “Twos” in its plowing priority system. Roads in the One category are major thoroughfares, like Broncos Parkway and Arapahoe Road, along with roads that serve schools and major business centers. Twos are roadways that connect residential developments to these major thoroughfares. The County does not plow residential streets. The division also conducts snow removal on bridges and other transportation assets within the County.
Road and Bridge crews have been taking numerous training sessions in which plows and sanders have been hooked up to trucks, along with classroom work to review snowplow operations and routes. Drivers were even given time to drive their assigned snowplow route to become familiar with the roadways.
The County has a total of 21 snowplows. Eleven are housed at the Peoria Service Center in Centennial, and 10 are stored at the Eastern Service Center in Bennett. The County also can deploy five graders.
Along with the work preparation, Road and Bridge has touched base with its weather service, Skyview Weather, which provides the County with weather forecasts and models that predict snow accumulation.
Arapahoe County typically gets anywhere from 20 to more than 100 inches of snow every winter and must deal with challenges in the eastern portion of the County, where strong wind can create snow drifts, decrease visibility and increase ice on roadways. “The forecast for this winter is the first half will start off slow,” Haraldson said. “The second half will be stronger into spring.”
Before a forecasted storm, Road and Bridge deploys scouts across the County to monitor temperatures, pavement temperatures and accumulation. Plow crews are put on standby. “We try not go out there unless the snow is sticking,” Haraldson said.
The winter snow plan is just one aspect Road and Bridge crews are responsible for during the winter months. Crews are also actively repairing roads, maintaining gravel roads and replacing signs. The County has more than 14,000 signs and the division replaces about 1,000 per year. “Snow is a priority in winter, but we also want to make sure we provide all of the services we are responsible for,” Haraldson said.
Learn more about the County’s snow removal operations
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