Annual snow management plan announced
It’s a mixed winter forecast for the Public Works and Development team as they prepare the County’s annual snow management plan. On one hand, we’re expecting a mild and dry winter. On the other, a lack of snowplow drivers will affect the speed at which roads can be cleared when it does snow.
A third straight year of the La Niña weather pattern is expected this winter, which means wetter conditions for northern areas and drier conditions for southern Colorado, including most of Arapahoe County. Last year the county received very little early-season snow due to the weather pattern.
“We can expect a few snowstorms before the end of the year,” said Road and Bridge Operations Manager Michael Haraldson. “But while early winter may be drier than normal, we usually make up for it in the spring.”
Public Works and Development staff clear roads in unincorporated Arapahoe County, including eastern portions of the county which receive strong winds that create snow drifts, decrease visibility and increase ice on roadways. A plowing priority system identifies which roads will get cleared first.
- Priority One: Major arterial roads and access to emergency services, such as fire stations and medical facilities.
- Priority Two: Minor arterials, major collector streets and access to schools, business areas, grocery stores and service stations.
- Non-Priority: Except for emergencies or extreme snow conditions, plows and equipment are not diverted to local residential streets due to budgetary and staffing restrictions. Businesses and residents are responsible for clearing sidewalks of snow.
Complicating matters this year is a lack of snowplow drivers—a challenge felt by municipalities, counties and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“We normally have two plows per route,” said Haraldson. “But this year most routes will be covered by one person, so it will take us a bit longer to clear roads.”
The County has 11 snowplow routes. When fully staffed and conditions warrant, two shifts work around the clock to clear arterial and collector roads. The County is actively hiring to fill vacant positions and offer training for new hires to obtain their commercial license. Snow removal is just one of the services impacted by staffing.
“Snow is always a priority in winter, but we also have other assets to maintain,” said Haraldson. “We are balancing those two priorities constantly.” Those competing priorities include paving and repairing paved roads, maintaining gravel roads, and replacing street signs. It’s a lot of work, but Haraldson said crews are always ready to help.
“We take tremendous pride in our work and want to keep our roads as safe as possible,” said Haraldson. “We thank our residents for their patience and their assistance in keeping all of us safe during storms.”
More information on the county’s snow plan can be found at www.arapahoegov.com/Snow
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