When there is snow, sleet, ice, or other inclement weather, the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s top priority is safety. Transportation crews work around the clock to limit interruptions to Portlanders’ daily lives, prevent life-threatening injuries and avoid property damage.
Snow and ice routes
Our designated snow and ice routes make up about 25% of all city streets. These routes are the most critical streets for transit, for emergency vehicles, as well as safe access to our city’s police and fire stations, hospitals, schools, park-and-ride transit lots, the downtown core and major business districts.
Go to our Winter Weather Center for an interactive map of our snow and ice routes.
PBOT does not plow local side streets outside these routes. If we didn't keep our focus on our priority routes, we could risk impairing emergency response, transit operations, and general mobility throughout the city.
We have strengthened our cooperation with other agencies and private plowing companies. Still it can take crews 12 hours to cover our routes once in a major snowfall.
Sidewalks, driveways, and overhead hazards
By City Code, private property owners are responsible for clearing their sidewalks and driveways, including the removal of snow, ice, slippery leaves, and other debris. This work is vital for everyone who relies on public transit in winter weather, as well as for seniors and people with disabilities.
As soon as possible after a snow or ice storm, clear your sidewalks and driveways across pedestrian paths by maintaining a path 3-feet wide for people to safely travel.
Property owners must also warn the public of any danger of falling snow or ice from their buildings. Please plan to post a warning sign or sandwich board as you work to eliminate the hazard.
Go to our Safety Tips for ways you can be sure to get home safe in winter weather.
Anti-icing and traction devices
Locations at higher elevations, exposed bridges and overpasses, and other critical locations tend to freeze and get slick first. These are priority areas for PBOT’s anti-icing program.
Go to our Winter Weather Center for an interactive map of our priority routes for anti-icing.
During major winter storms, traction devices are typically required for West Burnside Street and Sam Jackson Park Road.
PBOT may close streets or require traction devices in other locations depending on conditions.
Streets with grades greater than 14% are not treated because of the danger to our equipment and crews.
How we de-ice and plow
Road treatments include application of anti-icing and de-icing chemicals, deployment of road salt and sand, plowing, and snow removal.
To determine the best treatment, PBOT crews continually monitor temperature, wind, humidity, dew point, visibility, precipitation as well as road conditions around the city.
Anti-icing is normally carried out after the evening peak-traffic period or before the morning rush.
Crews use snowplows when snow begins to accumulate at a depth of 1 inch or more on the street surface.
Go to our Winter Weather Center for current weather and road conditions, and to track our equipment in real time.
Staffing and equipment
During a major snow and ice event, PBOT Maintenance Operations crews will operate around the clock.
A total of 56 large dump trucks are fitted with snowplows and sand spreaders to clear streets, bridges, and overpasses of snow and ice. These are trucks normally used for filling potholes and carrying materials to and from work sites for paving, sidewalk repair and other tasks throughout the year.
Our 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.
Go to our Winter Weather Center to track our equipment in real time.
Cleanup after storms
As soon as possible after each storm, PBOT crews sweep snow and ice routes to remove hazards and debris such as gravel. These hazards are most dangerous for those walking, biking or travelling by motorcycle.
PBOT crews also work to limit the amount of sand entering the drainage system.
This process is slow and can take up to four weeks to complete, but crews are able to recover and recycle 75% of the sand applied in a snow and ice event.