When there is a chance of snow and ice, the City prepares to enact its Snow and Ice Plan. The goals of the plan are to reduce life threatening and injury producing conditions and reduce interruption to commerce and damage to property.
When there is snow, sleet, ice, or other winter weather event, the City of Portland's top priority is safety. Transportation crews will do their best to minimize the inconvenience to residents and businesses and, if necessary, work around the clock.
The Portland Plow Map shows the City's snow and ice routes and Traction Advisory Areas. The City has approximately 2,070 miles of streets, and of those, approximately 518 miles are bus snow routes. To cover all the lanes on the 518 centerline miles, our crews have to travel about 1,700 miles of lanes. For perspective, the distance from Seattle to San Diego on I-5 is about 1,255 miles, according to Google Maps.
Because winter storms are so rare in our area, the City has a limited fleet of vehicles for performing these services. They are focused on the higher priority facilities and generally follow the City's emergency transportation routes and TriMet's bus snow routes. The Snow and Ice Plan establishes four service priorities:
A. Pre-identified hazard areas and critical locations (mostly bridges, overpasses, and critical intersections);
B. Arterials and major transit routes considered to be a minimum network that must be kept open to provide a transportation system connecting hospitals, Police and Fire stations, rescue unit locations, schools, if open, and major park-and-ride transit lots;
C. Additional arterials with a high daily traffic count, and major collector streets completing a network that connects major residential areas and local commercial districts; and
D. Neighborhood residential streets providing access to residential homes and businesses, and Central Business District crosswalks, bridge walks, stairways, and other selected locations.
Neighborhood residential streets are not plowed and sanded during snow and ice events, and crews cannot safely get plow trucks up and down many steep and narrow side streets in the hills. The City does not have the equipment and personnel to provide anti-icing, de-icing, sanding, plowing, and snow removal services on neighborhood streets.
Major routes are routinely patrolled during adverse weather and treated as necessary to keep them open.
Snow removal on sidewalks and driveways is the responsibility of the property owner.
Traction advisory areas
Traction Advisory Areas are particular locations like steep hills, bridges, and critical locations on both the west and east sides of the city that are exposed to the elements and tend to freeze first. They are slick spots in winter weather.
Because of their hazardous and changing conditions in winter weather, the Traction Advisory Areas warrant extra caution and chains or studded tires may be required if you choose to drive on these streets, hills, and bridges.
PBOT has authority to close streets and/or require traction devices. During major events, traction devices are usually required for West Burnside Street and Sam Jackson Road. Other known hazard areas and critical locations during the winter include:
- Bridges and overpasses that are exposed and tend to freeze first
- West Hills - NW Cornell Road, West Burnside Street, Sam Jackson Road, NW Skyline Boulevard, Germantown Road, SW Hamilton Street, SW Bancroft Street
- East Side - Mt. Scott, Mt. Tabor, Rocky Butte, SE Flavel, Marine Drive
- Council Crest is the highest point in the metro area at 1,073 feet above sea level
- Mt. Scott is 1,050 feet above sea level
- Mt. Tabor is 641.30 feet above sea level
- Powell Butte is 620 feet above sea level
- Rocky Butte is 609.30 feet above sea level
- Kelly Butte is 590 feet above sea level
Staffing and equipment
During a major snow and ice event, PBOT Maintenance Operations crews may operate around the clock to ensure 24-hour coverage. Truck drivers, large equipment operators, and other personnel are working to implement the Snow and Ice Plan.
A total of 55 large dump trucks are fitted with snowplows and sand spreaders to clear streets, bridges, and overpasses of snow and ice. These trucks are used every day for filling potholes and carrying materials to and from work sites for paving, sidewalk repair and other tasks. The full fleet includes an additional 5 anti-icing trucks, 10 service trucks, 5 loaders, 2 backhoes, 1 road grader, 2 emergency trucks, 2 street closure trucks, and 2 fuel trucks.
Winter road conditions are affected by a number of weather factors. Crews monitor temperatures of the air, road surfaces, and the ground, wind data, relative humidity, dew point, visibility, and precipitation. Crews also monitor specific roadway conditions all around the city.
Road treatments include application of anti-icing and de-icing chemical, sanding, plowing, limited snow removal, and street closures.
The City owns five trucks for anti-icing and de-icing streets, bridges, and overpasses.
Anti-icing is normally carried out after the evening peak traffic period or before the morning rush.
Arterial streets and emergency transportation routes are plowed first during a storm. Those are the major streets leading toward downtown Portland in the early morning and away from downtown in the afternoon. Non-arterial streets are plowed only when the arterial streets are cleared. Plan your route accordingly.
Crews use snowplows when snow begins to accumulate at a depth of one inch or more on the street surface.
Streets with grades greater than 14% are not treated due to safety concerns.
After each storm, the streets on the snow and ice routes are mechanically swept. Portland performs street sweeping as soon as possible after the end of a storm event to remove the safety hazards to people walking, biking and people riding motorcycles and to try to minimize the amount of sand entering the drainage system. Portland typically recovers and recycles 75% of the total sand that is applied to streets in a snow and ice event. However, this process can take up to four weeks.
Sidewalks, driveways, and overhead hazards
Property owners are responsible for their sidewalks and driveways, including the removal of snow, ice, slippery leaves, and other debris. By City Code, property owners responsible for maintenance of snow, ice, and other debris on sidewalks.
As soon as possible, clear your sidewalks and driveways across pedestrian paths of snow and ice, leaves, and debris after a snow event. Maintain at least a three-foot-wide path so pedestrians and transit users have a safe place to walk. Property owners are also responsible for advising pedestrians of any danger of falling snow or ice from their buildings. Please make arrangements to post an advisory (sign or sandwich board) and eliminate the hazard.
As the snow plowing operation proceeds, a snow berm develops. It is impossible to plow without leaving a berm. Individual property owners are responsible for clearing away the snow berm from driveways and entrances. Pile shoveled snow where it can be absorbed into the ground, not on the street and public right-of-way.
Businesses hiring contractors to remove snow from lots should store the snow on your property, not dump it on the street and public right-of-way.