With winter weather in the forecast, well before any snow or ice arrives on city streets, City of Bellingham Public Works crews work to prepare City streets, with a focus on identified snow routes.
“We are well prepared with vehicles, equipment, sand, brine solution and everything else we need to treat our snow routes in advance and plow them if snow accumulates,” Brandon Brubaker, Public Works Street Division supervisor, said. “Getting the brine solution on the roads before snow or ice arrives makes it so much easier and more effective to plow.”
The City’s seven large sanders and plows and two de-icing trucks have been prepared for the coming cold. Even before plowing, the vehicles are used to prepare the streets for ice and snow. Crews travel through the City’s six snow routes on three shifts per day laying down deicer. When the weather is cold enough, remaining dry and in the teens, crews may use Boost™ (beet juice) – which keeps ice from forming.
Once snow and ice are already on the streets, City crews use straight salt on the streets in the downtown corridor and around Lake Whatcom.
“We avoid sand in these areas to keep it from washing into critical habitats,” says Brubaker. On other routes, crews use a sand-to-salt mixture of 4:1. After the weather changes, all that sand must be swept up by the City.
The City has identified snow routes – which cover much of Bellingham’s 300 lane miles of streets – to focus on arterials and some secondary arterials, highly traveled routes and those essential for Police, Fire, Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) and Bellingham schools. That means that some residential streets may be untreated and likely slippery.
Plowing on snow routes typically starts when the snow has accumulated and is forecast to continue. Four-lane roads initially have only one lane plowed in each direction with additional lanes open as time and conditions permit. Access to side streets is cleared only after the priority routes are completely cleared.
It is always important to avoid unnecessary trips during inclement weather. For more information on safe winter driving check Washington State Department of Transportation’s winter driving page.