Snowplows have been extra busy in Northwest Colorado in the first 11 days of 2017.

file photo

file photo

Snowplows have been extra busy in Northwest Colorado in the first 11 days of 2017.

Routt County roads get plowed once a day, drivers cover 20 to 30 miles in 8 hours

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— Through the past seven days, motorists in Steamboat Springs have experienced how challenging driving on local roads can be in the midst of a multi-day snowstorm, but it can be a different experience altogether on Routt County’s more than 800 miles of road, which are plowed once per day in the midst of a storm.

County Commissioner Cari Hermacinski said Jan. 9 she received a message from a constituent this month urging the county to begin plowing roads three times daily, instead of only once in the early morning hours. The rural resident requested that the county also plow every afternoon and evening, when needed, Hermacinski said.

County Road and Bridge Director Janet Hruby explained Jan 10 why it’s not practical for her crews to plow the same road multiple times per day.

“I think one thing people forget is a difference between the city (of Steamboat Springs) and the county is that, in the city, the plows can do multiple laps (on their route), but our routes are 20 to 30 miles and designed to take just under eight hours to complete,” Hruby said.

On days there isn't a snow event, the crews head out to create more space on either side of the county roads in order to open storage space before the next storm.

“Our crews did a remarkable job on the one day it didn’t snow, using it to push back the snow banks and widen the route,” Hruby said.

The county’s website spells out its policy regarding snow plowing; county crews check conditions between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. to determine is there is a (need) to plow, and they start early to reduce the impact on traffic.

Snow removal in the county is divided into three zones: Oak Creek, Steamboat and Hayden. Each shop has one extra snowplow driver in case of an illness.

“On snow event days, road crews operate on one shift between 3 a.m. and noon,” the policy reads. “On non-snow days, road crews operate a single shift between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.”

Hruby said in addition to snowplows, her department dispatches sanding trucks during snowstorms. The sanding trucks travel shorter routes than the plows and can often make two, or sometimes even three, laps in a shift.

Hermacinski ventured to fellow commissioners Doug Monger and Tim Corrigan that, if the county wanted to try to increase plowing frequency on a handful of county roads in extreme circumstances, the chosen roads would be based on traffic counts, and County Manager Tom Sullivan said that would mean Routt County Road 129 to North Routt and Steamboat Lake State Park and Routt County Road 14, which leads from Steamboat to Stagecoach.

Monger pointed out that annual staffing at Road and Bridge is based on the current snowplowing schedule and suggested it would be difficult to keep extra plow drivers in reserve, because commercial snow removal contractors have already tied up the qualified heavy equipment operators.

“Our pool of people are already working for Native Excavating and CD Johnson,” Monger said. “When we need them to be on call, they’ll already be working 20 hours for somebody doing snowplowing.”

Sullivan and Corrigan, coincidentally, commute to the courthouse from South Routt on Routt County Road 14.

“I just hardly ever have had bad driving conditions on RCR 14,” Corrigan said, but Sullivan was of the opinion that it can get difficult during the evening commute.

Hruby said big snow events, such as the two-day storm cycle of Jan. 5 and 6, are much like any day on the job for her snow removal crews, but the fact that they are driving heavy equipment doesn’t mean they have super powers.

“People assume because they’re in a plow, they’re superheroes,” Hruby said. “If it’s a blizzard, it’s challenging for them, too.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

Comments

doug monger 1 week, 2 days ago

Lee, an indirect response to your question from the Road and Bridge Director.

Every district sent the on-call crews out plowing the paved roads early on Sunday 1/8. More snow accumulated Sunday mid day after they were done plowing. The full crews were out early on Monday 1/9 on all roads.

Janet Hruby, PE, PTOE

Routt County

Road & Bridge Director

Doug Monger Routt County Commissioner

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John Weibel 1 week, 2 days ago

It seems that on non-snow event days, that the road and bridge crew ought to start a little later in the day. This as the snow is getting ripe to be removed from the road about quitting time.

In addition, it seems that the County could purchase a couple of 4X4 trucks for the sheriffs to drive in the winter equipped with plows and plow the main roads as this past Sunday and another one in the recent past, even more so, were coming close to being one lane roads. That is thinking too far outside the box and not within a tightly managed schedule, that while maybe impacting traffic less while the plows are on the streets might just make the roads more hazardous.

If there is not a series of snow events lined up days in a row, that one driver in each district (or if all are able to work - no one sick - that the extra driver work a later shift in order to plow the major roadways later in the day so the snow does not get packed on the road prior to the next mornings "scheduled" plow. Might also try and look at the hourly weather forecast as the snow may arrive at noon and so working from 6-3 really lacks in clearing the roads. But then again that might interfere with a routine for those who, in the winter, should be keeping the roads more passable.

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Stan Zuber 1 week, 1 day ago

Welcome to rural Colorado. I believe the County does a pretty good job on snow removal. There a very few times when the weather gets kind of crazy. The County is good about keeping school bus routes open, which requires early morning removal and sometimes afternoon removal. If you really need to get somewhere, on days of heavy snowfall, have a good 4 wheel drive vehicle.

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John Weibel 1 week, 1 day ago

Stan, they do do a pretty good job. Though there are many times when it has not snowed for days, Elk River road warms up later in the day and is slushy, which would be a very good time to clear the road. With the current schedule, it really does not allow that.

A couple years ago the road was down to one lane because of drifting snow at 2 in the afternoon. This past Sunday, the road was approaching that in the afternoon again.

Again the county does a good job most of the time, but there set schedule, really does not allow them the flexibility to plow in the afternoon on roads that are warming, most of the time. I have driven Elk River Road so many times pondering the fact that gee, there is 4+ inches of slush as it has melted and what a nice time to plow it. The 6-3 schedule explains why it never is done as they do it in the morning when it is nice and frozen again. Having plowed the road early, there is no need to return.

Not talking about the majority of county roads, simply the arteries that carry the majority of traffic, those ought to be better cared for than the other roads. Monger lives in Hayden, has CDOT plow his path, on a much different schedule and probably does not get to experience the same conditions as others, living in the Banana belt.

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Stan Zuber 1 week, 1 day ago

John, there should be a phone number to contact somebody that takes care of your part of the County. If you deem it is a safety issue or.might be a problem for emergency vehicles. Being a Sunday afternoon I would try to call and at least make them aware.

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Scott Wedel 1 week, 1 day ago

I agree with John that there should be a schedule option for slush fighting and road widening that can be used on warmer days after a storm.

The "Banana Belt" does not extend to CR 14 around Stagecoach. CR 14 is vulnerable to drifting snow. I think it would make sense to work with property owners to see if a snow fence located at an engineered locations on their properties would reduce snow drifts on CR 14.

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Mark Rosencutter 1 week, 1 day ago

This is a safety issue, show me one EMS or fire rig that could get to either location in a timely fashion, if your house were on fire or heaven forbid a car accident with a family member. Clear roads should be a priority at all times, the main trunk lines especially 129, 14 or whatever. Navigating the 129 at dusk or dark after an all afternoon snowfall is very difficult.. it would never happen your house would burn to the ground, the county is "gambling or lets say running the gauntlet on this. Where in the plowing laws does it talk about the what if's and law suits.. Not Practical... please

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Terin Petersen 1 week, 1 day ago

I don't post comments; it shows you have way too much time on your hands but I really need to voice my feelings on this issue. Your house can burn down in the summertime when the roads are dry and clear people! I have lived in rural Routt County for 20 of the 35 years living here. I know what the risks of living rural are and the benefits far outweigh those for my family. Seriously??? Plow your road 3 times a day?? It's time for you, dear constituent, to move into town, or make sure you have a good 4 wheel drive with adequate snow tires, know how to drive it in crazy conditions; or consider sunny, dry Arizona for relocation. Thank you to the Road and Bridge crew for working hard to clear our roads; especially Eric, who does such a great job on ours!

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Jim Kelley 1 week, 1 day ago

Terin, It's easy to see Mark's statement and say "move to the city or move to Arizona" but his ridiculous expectations for county service should not cloud the issue of County plowing inflexibility.

CDOT rotates crew through the day and night accordingly. Commercial plow drivers typically work 12 -18 hours+ through the night and day during storm cycles. The County should have the flexibility to adjust the daily plow schedule according to the weather, not just either a 3:00 - 12:00 vs 6:00 to 3:00 schedule. County Rd 14 and 129 are priority routes and shouldn't be treated the same as the other 700 miles of roads. If it starts snowing an inch an hour at 8:00 AM, these roads need a blade in the afternoon, not the next morning and the county should have the available workers to cover that requirement. This shouldn't be a matter of adding additional plow budget but instead directing R&B to implement a flexible plowing schedule, not a set schedule. County Plow drivers do a great job and should be commended, just like CDOT, city and the commercial plow guys. ....They should just be plowing to the weather's schedule, not a rigid shift.

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John Weibel 1 week ago

Terin this is an example of how a virtual government would be helpful. The county does a good job, but there are instances where it could do better. Plowing the main stems on a weather related schedule is one instance and later in the day on warm ones is another example. Feedback loops, as this could serve as, are very helpful, if they are used.

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Debbie Milstead 1 week ago

Terin-

I agree with you. Living in a rural area is tough in the Winter. It's not for everyone. Even if you live on a school bus route on the weekends and holidays you may not see a snow plow. If there is slush on the road slow down. If Country living doesn't work out for you - move to town.

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Debbie Milstead 1 week ago

It's funny that the women can handle Country living while the men complain!

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Scott Wedel 1 week ago

The men are not complaining, but thinking about how it could be done better.

The reason for a later in the day clearing of slush is not to have pristine pretty roads, but that slush refreezes at night into ice and what were ruts in slush become ruts in hard ice. What could have been easily cleared in the afternoon becomes very hard to clear and beats up the equipment.

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Debbie Milstead 1 week ago

Scott-

Call 879- 1090. That should be the phone number for the S.O. They will send an officer to check on the conditions or contact the county to remove the slush. I hope I wasn't rude. It's common knowledge in the county to call the SO.

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Jim Kelley 1 week ago

Debbie, The complaint isn't the slush or snow depth but those who are in over their heads and drive 20 MPH, clogging roads and making it inherently dangerous. Most guys I know from Lynx psss/Stagecoach actually prefer to travel in before the plow, not after, because driving through a foot of snow is not really difficult at all if you have skills and equipment and there are no "just slowdown folks" in the way.

"Just slow down" IS the problem clogging the main arteries in the PM because some folks can't handle anything over 20MPH if the roads aren't plowed after it snowed all day. Plowing CR14 following a daytime snowstorm allows the "just slow down" crowd of yours to move along a little faster and safer, making the fuming masses behind you not have to ride their brakes the whole way home. (If you didn't know already, rolling tires are safer, breaking tires are not)

CDOT, commercial, and even city plow crews work the problem based on weather. County crews work a "shift" and nobody has really challenged this method as being flawed. It is.

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Debbie Milstead 1 week ago

Jim-

The "just slow down" crowd is not the crowd I drive with. I drive with the "kick-ass" group going to Happy Hour! Try to avoid "fuming masses" . Stagecoach is half the distance I travel.

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John Weibel 6 days, 19 hours ago

Debbie,

Read Jim's last statement. "CDOT, commercial, and even city plow crews work the problem based on weather. County crews work a "shift" and nobody has really challenged this method as being flawed. It is."

That is the problem, and to not listen and work a shift as the county does, indicates that at the tail wags the dog and the county works when they want and to heck with actually planning as other agencies do for snow.

To never strive to do a better job or ponder that things could be done differently to improve is the problem. We do a good job and to heck with insights from others. I am not complaining about once a day plowing, just that many times it could be timed better especially when I see them plow early and then when the snow is ripe to be plowed, when it is warm and has defrosted a little, it is not done. Constantly thinking of how to improve process' would make government work better.

In today's age affording some mechanism to converse with those in and out of government on what we see done right and wrong, would make the process better. To require utilizing a telephone to put forth input for the process, not allowing discourse to happen discussing a topic and thoughts developing organically - misses the ability of where technology is on how to achieve that.

Shoot the planning department stated to me, after requesting changes happen, well we put it up on our website. Gee, if it was a topic I requested to be reviewed, there ought to be way to ensure that I am told it is being reviewed without me having to go look for it. As opposed to having too much time and writing on here. I have too little time and do not have time to seek out what is happening within the county weekly. The paper affords one to know what is going on and when a topic pops up that I have some thoughts (when I think I know what is going on on topic) I post them.

Creating a virtual democracy would be better, than an insular one, which we have. The fact that I am supposed to call a number to voice my opinion, does not show the county, me or others the level of concern with a topic they are discussing. Most times the county does a great job and there are no complaints.

But the county does not view its constituents as its clients, which we are, paying their wages and pensions, they ought to at least listen as maybe, some good points are made that might improve service and safety for all.

We are just supposed to sit back and assume that everything is done perfectly. I am not complaining, just voicing an opinion on how better results could be brought forth.

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Chris Hadlock 6 days, 18 hours ago

Mother Nature has dealt all of us a heavy task over the last two weeks with the road crews carrying the heaviest load of all. I think we all owe them a friendly smile along with a hearty thanks for all the hours they put in. How many places in the world could even keep these roads open given the sheer volume of snow we have seen?

Thanks out there guys, keep up the good work and know that we appreciate your efforts.

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Debbie Milstead 6 days, 16 hours ago

John-

You don't need to "shoot the planning department" ! Chris Hadlock stated it's been a tough two weeks. It's has also been tough for the road crews. If you have to drive "slower" this is a minor inconvenience. We have been driving slow for years when the roads are bad.

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John Weibel 6 days, 7 hours ago

Debbie,

the point being, that government might be better with some virtual feedback, in every department. Government should see us as their customers and encourage feedback, and if a virtual forum, then the bad ideas will be called out, by the general public. plowing three times a day is a bad idea, but hitting arteries a couple times in a day would be nice, which probably happens.

I am not complaining at all about the road crews. The main comment was on clearing roads on days after we have had nice weather for a while, which is not now.

by the way their schedule is set and so a third schedule for those days slush develops might be nice. That is the point as it is easier when warm as opposed to cold to remove.

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Debbie Milstead 5 days, 16 hours ago

John-

If you don't mind me asking: Where did you live before you moved to Routt County? How long have you lived here?

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