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MUIRFIELD eNEWS: JANUARY 15, 2018

Snow Plowing in Muirfield

From Muirfield Association, Inc.
Bob Fathman, President
Muirfield Association Board of Directors

I received some e-mails from residents inquiring about street prioritization for snow plowing. My own street wasn't plowed until 2:30 a.m. on Sunday. Others had to wait even a little longer. So I pointed out the long lag time to Dublin's Public Service Director, suggesting the City consider hiring more staff and purchasing additional plows. I also asked that they consider rotating the order of areas plowed in the residential category [Priority 3] so that the same streets didn't always seem to be serviced last.

I received an amazingly quick reply, impressive that a high level administrator was even working on a holiday. Compliments are due here -- this is nothing new. I have long been impressed with our City staff in every department. They often respond to e-mails and voicemails on weekends and evenings, put in long hours, and always provide excellent, detailed answers to my inquiries. Here is the reply today from Megan O'Callaghan, Dublin's Public Works Director:

Good Morning Bob –

It is good to hear from you! We are always open to suggestions and I appreciate hearing about, and having the opportunity to respond to, complaints. I know you are familiar with our snow operations prioritization system as it has been in place for years, but I would like to take the opportunity to elaborate especially since we haven’t had much snow the past couple of years. The City has a curb-to-curb snow removal policy for all public streets in the City of Dublin. Many other communities strive to provide a path that is passable and either do not service residential streets at all, or only after a threshold of inches of snow is met. Our priority system for snow removal is based on safety (traffic volumes and speeds) and is as follows:

  • Priority 1 - Primary Streets and hills, culverts and bridges (main thoroughfares to ensure the safe passage of emergency vehicles). These streets carry the highest volumes of traffic and have the highest speeds;
  • Priority 2 – Secondary Streets (Collector Streets feeding into Primary Streets);
  • Priority 3 – Neighborhood/residential side streets, cul-de-sacs, and alleys. These streets have the lowest volumes of traffic, lowest speeds, and typically drivers don’t have to travel far to arrive at a Priority 2 secondary/collector street.

Dublin has historically had a goal of all public streets being serviced as follows:

  • 0 – 3” snow fall – 12 hours from end of storm
  • 3” – 6” snow fall – 24 hours from end of storm
  • 6” and above – 36 hours from end of storm

If ice and freezing rain is involved, the above does not apply as this condition is extremely variable and our ability to clear it varies greatly depending on temperature. The City has a practice of pre-treating roads ahead of a forecasted snow/ice event to speed up these times and assist with more rapid response. However, if it is forecasted to rain prior to the snow/ice event then pre-treating will be ineffective as the rain will wash the brine away. Priority of our pre-treatment efforts is to hills, bridges and culverts, then streets themselves in the above order.

It is important to point out responding to snow/ice events is not an exact science, and most people do not realize that there are over 66,000 different storm conditions – pavement temperature, ambient temperature, pavement type, solar radiation, traffic volume, traffic speed, wind direction and velocity, type of precipitation, topography, shaded areas, and wind chill factor, to name a few variables, all come into play in various combinations. Also, rarely does it snow for a period of time and then stop, which then starts the clock for us cleaning up everything within a certain period of time. It is not uncommon for the snow to stop, and about the time we have the priority 1’s and 2’s in good shape and start working on the residential streets, we get a short burst of snow which covers everything over, and we are back out on the 1’s and 2’s working again. This can happen numerous times over the course of an event, and it is easy for a resident to wonder why they haven’t seen a truck on their street.

Reviewing this past Friday’s event, we documented the snow stopped at 3:30 am Saturday morning. We had 26 plows working throughout the City and with the gusting winds and low temperatures they had to work on the priority 1 main/highly travelled roads and priority 2 collector streets until they were safe about noon Saturday. We were then able to start the priority 3 residential streets around noon, and according to our supervisors and records our plows made it through all the streets in the City (including priority 3 residentials) at least one time by about 3:00 am Sunday morning (all streets were serviced by about 23 1/2 hours from the end of storm). I should also mention we had 4 trucks from Parks Operations assisting with this event that do not have the SnowGo technology installed on them so their efforts would not have been visible on the SnowGo website. The ice that we experienced at the beginning of the storm, combined with the extremely low temperatures and time of day of the event, meant we ended up with some hard packed snow and ice which the plows oftentimes weren’t able to scrape off. While the time it takes to clean up priority 3 (residential) roadways is important, it is not nearly as important as being able to keep the high traffic volume priority 1’s and then 2’s safe during an event. It is possible for a driver to miss a street but we do have a reporting mechanism in SnowGo that alerts us of streets that have not been serviced. We will definitely do as you suggest and review the data from the last storm to see what we can learn to improve our operations. We have not had much snow the past couple of years but our operation has remained the same. In fact, we have implemented several enhancements including the use of more liquids, the addition of a few smaller trucks for narrower streets, and the SnowGo technology. SnowGo is not only a great resource for our residents, it is also a valuable management tool for our staff. We have added the ability to pre-treat salt with liquids coming off of the truck spinner to accelerate the snow/ice melting process and reduce the “bounce” of salt as it hits the roadway to improve the spread zone of the salt. The use of liquids has been developed and tested over the years and some very good products are on the market, including Beet Heat, which is a product that we mix 50/50 with salt brine to pre-treat pavement prior to a snow storm and to also pre-wet the salt as it comes off of the truck.

Your suggestions are right on point! As part of the 2018 Operating Budget, City Council approved the addition of 2 new full-time maintenance worker positions in the Street & Utilities Operations division. We are in the process of recruiting qualified applicants for these positions and hope to have them on-board in the next couple of months. Staff determined these positions are needed with the additional streets that have been/are being constructed in new developments (e.g. Riviera and the Bridge Street District). These positions will allow us to maintain the high level of services we provide. As additional neighborhoods are built we also evaluate the way we have our zones and routes defined. We do encourage our operators to change up the way they progress through their residential streets so that the last street during one event may be the first street during the next event. Additionally, there are different operators assigned to the a.m. and p.m. shifts and that provides some variation with the order of progress. The operators know how to get through their assigned routes without missing anything, and so they are responsible for managing their route. Some routes have more residential streets than others, and so when an operator finishes his/her route, they are tasked to help out an operator on another route, so that everyone works until it is all complete.

The good news is we have warmer temperatures today (relatively speaking) which will hopefully enable the salt and Beet Heat that we are using to be more effective. Our drivers have been working long hours, holidays, and weekends, so it is nice to see in the forecast they may get a break from the snow after they wrap up this event. Please feel free to give me a call if you have any additional questions. Have a great week and be safe.

MEGAN D. O’CALLAGHAN, P.E.
PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR
Public Works Department
6555 Shier-Rings Road
Dublin, Ohio 43016
Office: 614.410.4751

Want to see where plows are right now? Try SnowGo on the city's website.


Published January 15, 2018

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