King County road crews prepare for wintry conditions

November 15, 2011

By Staff

NEW — 10:40 a.m. Nov. 15, 2011

La Niña is in the long-term forecast, temperatures continue to fall and the King County Road Services Division is urging motorists to prepare for driving in wintry conditions.

The agency faces a challenge in the months ahead due to budget cuts.

Because wintry conditions can start earlier at higher elevations, county road crews topped off salt and sand stockpiles of salt and sand to be ready. The latest forecast indicates ice and snow could start any day now.

The county roads division has 17,700 cubic yards of sand, 270 cubic yards of salt and 21,000 gallons of anti-icing material stockpiled at 10 field offices throughout the county. The agency also has equipment ready to combat snow and ice.

If a significant snowstorm blasts the region, officials place crews on 12-hour shifts to provide around-the-clock response on roads in unincorporated areas.

Starting in November, the agency plans to assign a half dozen maintenance workers to overnight shifts to respond to snow, ice and other road problems.

Despite annexations by surrounding cities, the county is still responsible for about 1,300 miles of snow routes connecting cities, suburban and rural areas — yet the Road Services Division has fewer resources to respond due to cuts in funding and staffing.

Motorists should expect for some roads to be plowed and sanded less often due to the cuts.

Priorities for snow and ice removal include arterial roads and heavily traveled roadways — such as Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast — and routes used by King County Metro Transit buses.

In general, snow response on roadways is planned to occur in the following order of priority:

  • Major roads, such as key arterials and main thoroughfares connecting densely populated areas.
  • Smaller roadways carrying traffic from local streets to arterial roadways connecting towns and cities.
  • Secondary commuter routes considered important connectors to the county’s larger road network.

During minor or localized snow events, the division plans to shift crews from unaffected areas of the county to help keep roads clear, but during a significant regional snowstorm, the shifting of county forces may not be possible.

Motorists should study the King County snow and ice plan and develop backup plans in case snow prevents travel. Such plans could include working a flexible schedule, telecommuting or postponing a trip, if possible.

“When a snowstorm strikes, the best way to avoid the dangers of driving is to stay home,” Road Services Division Manager Paulette Norman said in a statement issued Tuesday. “If you must drive, stick to major arterials and make sure your vehicle has good winter tires and a full tank of gas before heading out.”

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