Winter weather Public Works response

Keeping up with the conditions is an ongoing effort

December 21, 2017 - by Amy Cloud, Communications and Outreach

When we get snow and cold, making roads icy, it’s advisable to stay off them if possible. But we realize it’s not always possible to stay home and wait for road conditions to improve.  That’s where Public Works comes in. We’ve got the people, the vehicles and the de-icing material to treat streets to:

  1. Ensure Police and Fire can respond to emergencies
  2. Maintain arterial streets for Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) busses and reasonable travel*
  3. If #1 and #2 are accomplished and we’ve got the resources, then we go to work on residential streets, followed by alleys that provide sole access for residents.

*And what does “reasonable travel” mean? It means for vehicles that are equipped with all-season or snow tires or have chains. These roads may still have compact snow and ice, though we de-ice (with solution, sand or salt) at intersections to aid safe stopping.

Prepared to serve: Public Works adjusts work schedules so that qualified crew are available 24/7 to take care of the roads.  Public Works Operations staff not only help develop the snow response protocols, they have been specifically trained for winter conditions and the equipment we use to clear the streets. And we’ve got lots to work with, including:

  • four 10-yard (quantity) trucks with snow plows and sanding materials
  • three of the two-yard trucks with plows and sanders
  • two thousand-gallon de-icing trucks
  • 10 one-ton trucks for hand-sanding and maintenance work
  • Two three-yard loaders to scrape snow
  • One back hoe used for scraping snow
  • 20,000 gallons of de-icing material
  • 100 yards of salt, 50 yards of sand, and more than 300 yards of salt/sand mixture.

We have over 900 lane miles of street in Bellingham (not including alleys), which is we why we start with the arterials. Those are the streets most heavily used and vital for WTA travel; that accounts for 240 lane miles. We move out from there to streets that feed the arterials, then residential roads, and then alleys. (Although usually before we can cover them all, the weather changes and driving conditions improve.)

Click here for more information on City response to snow and ice.

Questions and Answers

Q: Streets where I live are good, but the sidewalks are an icy mess. What about them?
A: Public Works is responsible for treating icy streets – sidewalks, driveways and parking lots are the responsibility of the adjacent property owner.

Q: What about de-icing on pedestrian bridges and trails at City Parks? 

A:  The City’s Parks Department has a crew of just four to maintain 70 miles of trails and even more open space.  They do not clear snow or ice on trails, but allow that to occur naturally.  They have been de-icing stairs at City Parks.

Media Contact

Michael Olinger
City of Bellingham – Public Works Operations
Superintendent of Maintenance
(360) 778-7700

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