Winter has arrived! In order to keep Washtenaw County residents better informed this winter, the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) has put together a Winter Maintenance FAQ (below) and encourages area residents to follow WCRC on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed on winter maintenance efforts.
The Washtenaw County Road Commission is responsible for winter maintenance on 1,650 miles of county roads and 581 lane miles of state highways and expressway. Winter maintenance activities include applying salt and sand, as well as plowing snow on roadways and shoulders. With few exceptions, WCRC conducts winter maintenance on public roads located outside of cities and village limits. Cities and villages provide winter maintenance with their own workforces.
How does WCRC prioritize snow and ice removal?
Safety is the Washtenaw County Road Commission’s top priority and when a storm hits WCRC crews begin their day early to keep roads as clear as possible. WCRC performs winter maintenance activities in accordance with the Winter Maintenance Guidelines approved annually by the Board of County Road Commissioners. WCRC’s Winter Maintenance Guidelines include a priority system for clearing snow and ice from roads that is based on traffic volumes, location and road classification (paved, unpaved).
WCRC’s winter maintenance priorities are as follows:
1st Priority: Paved County Roads and I-94, US-23, M-14 and US-12 between I-94 and M-52.
Goal: Provide a pavement surface generally bare of snow and ice across the entire width of the road. Clearing the pavement will be a continuous process during and after a snow event, and overtime will be used as necessary.
2nd Priority: M-52, M-153, M-17, BR-12, and US-12 between I-94 and Wayne County
Goal: Provide a pavement surface generally bare of ice and snow in the center portion of the road with enough width for a one-wheel track in each direction. Clearing the pavement bare of snow and ice across its entire width will be accomplished as soon as reasonably possible after a winter storm event, without use of overtime.
3rd Priority: Subdivision Roads
Goal: Provide a pavement surface that is one plow truck pass wide in each direction of travel; a thin layer of snow is permissible. This work will be accomplished as soon as reasonably possible after the completion of Priority 1 and initial goal of Priority 2. Overtime will only be utilized if 4+ inches of snow has accumulated or as determined necessary by the Superintendent of Maintenance, with the concurrence of the Director of Operations. Clearing the pavement surface of snow and ice from each side of the roadway centerline, with a thin cover of snow permissible, shall be accomplished as soon as reasonably possible without requiring overtime work.
4th Priority: Gravel Roads
Goal: Provide a road surface that is one plow truck pass wide in each direction of travel. This work will be accomplished as soon as reasonably possible after the completion of Priority 1 and the initial goal of Priority 2. Overtime will only be utilized if 4+ inches of snow has accumulated or as determined necessary by the Superintendent of Maintenance, with the concurrence of the Director of Operations. Clearing the gravel surface of snow and ice over the entire width of the roadway shall be accomplished as soon as reasonably possible without requiring overtime work.
If a storm is long lasting, or a second storm starts before Priority 3 and 4 routes have been completed, crews will return to priority 1 and 2.
It snowed last night, when will my road be plowed?
When your road will be cleared depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the storm and the type of road you live on. WCRC conducts snow and ice removal based on a priority system. State highways (typically designated by ‘US’, ‘M’, or “I”) and paved county roads have the highest priority, followed by subdivision roads and unpaved gravel or limestone roads.
Why do snowplows block my driveway with snow when they clear the road?
WCRC’s first priority is the safety of the traveling public and clearing the roads of snow and ice by pushing it off the road and shoulders is necessary. Sometimes this means that snow is pushed into driveways. While plow crews try to minimize the amount of snow that gets plowed into driveways during the storm, it is the responsibility of the property owner to clear their driveway opening.
We understand the frustration that this causes area residents. To minimize extra work, we recommend that you shovel to the right side of your driveway as you face the road. Shoveling an area large enough to hold the snow coming off a plow blade may help reduce the need for a “second shovel.”
We cannot pick up the plow blade every time we pass a driveway, it is impractical and our drivers would never finish clearing the roads due to the sheer number of driveways in the county.
My mailbox was knocked down by the snowplow. Who is responsible for replacing it?
The Washtenaw County Road Commission will only replace mailboxes that are damaged by our equipment. We will not replace mailboxes damaged by the sheer force of snow or ice coming off of a plow blade.
Residents should contact the Washtenaw County Road Commission to report mailbox damage resulting from winter maintenance operations. A District Foreman will promptly investigate all mailbox damage claims through our Service Request customer service system.
Upon verification by the District Foreman that the mailbox was hit by WCRC equipment, the damaged mailbox and support structure are replaced by district crews, subject to the WCRC policy for erecting mailboxes on county roads. If the ground is frozen, a temporary mailbox and support structure can be provided until seasonal conditions allow for final installation.
If the property owner elects to make the replacement themselves, a standard type mailbox and support structure can be provided or a cash reimbursement can be provided, processed through the WCRC’s Finance Department. Replacement cost for a standard mailbox and support structure is $60.00.
I’ve seen snowplows driving along during a storm with their plows raised. Why aren’t they plowing?
There are a couple of reasons plows aren’t always pushing snow:
- Plows may be in operation only to spread materials, or may be out of materials to spread and headed back to the garage to reload.
- The road may have been treated with salt or de-icing products and plowing it may remove the mixture before it has an opportunity to work.
- The driver does not have the responsibility for the road he/she is currently on and is heading elsewhere. Plow routes are designed to minimize travel in between service areas.
Why can’t salt be put on roads and bridges before it snows?
Putting salt on road surfaces prior to a snowfall is a waste of time and money since salt often bounces off the dry road during application. The portion that manages to land and stay on the road surface is subject to wind and will likely blow off the road before it can do its job.
Salt is most effective after snow has accumulated and the temperature is 20° F or higher. Under these conditions, the salt and snow will mix, melting snow into slush that can be plowed off the pavement. This melting action will occur within two hours, less if traffic is using the highway.
If the temperature is below 20° F, the salt will have difficulty melting the snow and ice, so other methods are used. Abrasives are often put down for traction. Salt brine can be added to enhance the ability to melt the ice and snow. The road commission may change the mixture of salt and additives based on the ground temperature.
Read more Winter Maintenance FAQs on WCRC’s website: http://bit.ly/1PXsvsq