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City of Arlington prepares for winter weather

Leroy Mills, maintenance operations manager for the city of Arlington, shows off one of the plowing and sanding trucks that the city uses to respond to snow and ice on the roads in Arlington during the winter. - Kirk Boxleitner
Leroy Mills, maintenance operations manager for the city of Arlington, shows off one of the plowing and sanding trucks that the city uses to respond to snow and ice on the roads in Arlington during the winter.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — Although the freezing temperatures that have already arrived could be coupled with precipitation over the weekend, the city of Arlington began planning for winter snow and ice when the fall had barely started.

“We started preparing before October,” said Leroy Mills, maintenance operations manager for the city of Arlington. “We can’t order salt until the first week in October, but we got 120 tons of salt to add to the 170 tons we already had on hand, and we have 600 yards of sand and salt that were already mixed and left over from last year.”

Mills noted that Arlington’s winters have had a wide range of weather over the past few years, from the relatively mild winter of last year to the more formidable conditions of four years ago.

“I hope we don’t have a winter like we had four years ago,” Mills laughed. “We went through 1,200 yards of sand that year. Last year, we only went through 40 yards. We’ve already gone through 20 yards this year, just taking care of some of the slick areas, like 67th Avenue and Highway 9, 188th Street and 47th Avenue, and the Tveit and Burn Hill roads. Anyplace that’s shaded, or the pavement tends to get wet, or that’s on a hill, we try to hit for ice. We’ve actually had pretty dry pavement so far this year, though.”

The city of Arlington can provide 24-hour coverage its 170 lane-miles of roads with two 12-hour shifts of as many as three drivers each, with a fleet whose summer dump trucks are fitted with plows and loaded with sand for the winter.

“By laying down sand in front of its own wheels, it’s a lot safer, because it gives itself traction all the time,” Mills said on Dec. 3. “We were doing brake inspection, oil changes and tire checks on these trucks a couple of weeks ago , making sure all the lights work and doing complete walk-around inspections.”

Mills explained that Arlington Police and Fire personnel often call in to request areas that need plowing and sanding when the winter weather hits, but he credited his staff with staying proactive, by checking everything from the 15-day weather forecasts to the Farmer’s Almanac.

“It’s getting colder, but it hasn’t gotten as wet yet,” Mills said. “Supposedly, the wet is going to stay in the highlands, but Mother Nature doesn’t always follow the forecasts,” he laughed.

Arlington Assistant City Administrator Kristin Banfield reminded Arlington residents that the city will still prioritize its primary snow routes — which include hospitals, schools and hills — and make sure they’re plowed and sanded, before crews move onto clearing the city’s secondary streets. As always, the city plans to deal with any significant snowfall this winter by first tackling its busiest streets, which connect the city’s neighborhoods to one another and to the state highways.

Among the city’s other primary snow and ice removal routes are the streets used most frequently by public safety agencies, as well as the streets that are important to public institutions such as hospitals and schools, and the streets used by transit agencies. Non-arterial streets are not a primary priority for the city, but Banfield noted that city staff strive to address those routes as their time and equipment permits.

State highways that fall outside of Arlington’s primary snow and ice removal routes are maintained by the Washington State Department of Transportation, just as streets outside the city limits of Arlington are maintained by other agencies. The residents and storefront owners of Arlington’s main street will likewise be faced with the task of making their own portions of the sidewalk accessible to pedestrians.

“Of course, some roads are plowed and sanded constantly, such as the main arterials and primary snow routes, before we start sanding and snow removal on the secondary routes and residential streets,” said Banfield, who added that the city of Arlington does not maintain private driveways.

Just as Banfield and Mills advised motorists to go slower and allow for extra time to get to their destinations in the wake of snow and ice hitting the roads, so too did Mills ask people to be patient with his plow crews, since they need to abide by the same safety considerations.

“One of our trucks will cover 172nd Street from Highway 9 to the freeway,” Mills said. “The most they’ll be able to drive is 25 miles per hour, because you can’t go crazy in winter weather, so it’ll take them 45 minutes to go up one side and down the other of that street. If snow is falling at a rate of an inch every hour, then when that truck takes off to cover other routes, they’ll probably have at least four inches to clear by the time they get back.”

Mills also urged motorists to give his trucks as wide a berth as possible.

“We can be going down an 11-and-a-half-foot-wide road with a 12-foot-wide blade, and we can’t stop our big trucks as fast as other drivers can stop their vehicles,” Mills said.

For all the hassles that the season brings, Mills sees it as a marked improvement from when he started working for the city of Arlington nearly three decades ago, with a fleet that consisted solely of an old Ford truck with a drop-in sander and no plow.

To further assist the city Public Works Department’s efforts in the event of a future snowstorm, Arlington citizens are advised to remember the following tips:

  • If you’re experiencing a life safety emergency, call 911.
  • Property owners are asked to maintain all the sidewalks abutting their property in a clean, non-slippery fashion, free of leaves, ice and snow.
  • Whenever possible, please assist the Public Works Department by clearing catch-basins and snow-covered fire hydrants adjacent to your property.
  • Snow-shoveling can be very strenuous, so work at a comfortable pace for your health.

Following severe storms, the city will only pick up tree limbs and debris from trees that block city streets, since it does not have the resources to remove fallen tree limbs and brush from private property.

A map of the city of Arlington’s snow and ice removal routes can be found online at www.arlingtonwa.gov/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=4365.

For more information, visit the city of Arlington website at www.arlingtonwa.gov.

 

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