News Release: Saltzman expands Portland’s winter storm strategy with 100 tons of road salt, expanded PBOT plow routes, more resources
(Feb. 1, 2017) Commissioner Dan Saltzman today announced a broad strategy to boost the City of Portland’s winter weather response, including increasing the use of road salt and expanding the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s plow routes to include more school bus routes.
“I share the frustration Portlanders have expressed over recent snowfalls that lingered for far too long,” said Saltzman, the commissioner who oversees PBOT. “PBOT crews performed admirably during the several storms that covered the city with an exceptional snowfall and record low temperatures. But when slick roads lingered for a week, businesses lost sales and children missed time in class. We need a broader strategy to address winter storms, starting this week and continuing into next winter.”
The strategy announced today will help increase Portland’s ability to clear snow and ice, starting with preparation for a storm that is forecast for Thursday evening. The National Weather Service has told the City of Portland to expect as much as 1 to 2 inches of snow on Thursday evening, potentially during the evening rush hour, followed by 0.10 to 0.30 inches of freezing rain overnight continuing into Friday morning’s peak commute hours. Thawing is not likely until Friday afternoon or evening.
The storm may bring between a trace and 1 inch of snow to low elevations such as downtown Portland. Conditions are expected to be worse and linger longer, east of Interstate 205, where Columbia River Gorge winds bring colder temperatures. Drivers should be aware that freezing rain creates treacherous travelling conditions. If freezing rain occurs, travelers should avoid all travel unless absolutely necessary and continue to monitor conditions throughout the day. The public is advised to prepare to adjust travel plans, delaying travel or taking public transit if necessary. If using transit, plan extra time and expect delays as trains and buses will likely not be on schedule. Check trimet.org/alerts before you head out. Monitor weather forecasts closely through the weekend and adjust plans as warranted.
The strategy also includes several elements that will be in place, pending City Council budget approval, in time for winter 2017-18.
“This has been an exceptional winter,” Saltzman said. “While we can’t keep winter weather from hitting the Portland area, we as a community can do more to provide clearer, safer passage sooner in the aftermath of these winter storms.”
To address storms this week, PBOT will:
- Use up to 100 tons of road salt on at least three busy corridors to help clear snow and ice. This is the largest use of road salt in the modern history of Portland. It will also help PBOT test the effectiveness of road salt in a variety of locations that could indicate how it may be more effectively used citywide in the future.
- Expand the city’s 1,120 lane miles of plow routes to include up to 340 lane miles of additional public school bus routes. This is a 30 percent increase in the number of lane miles covered by PBOT.
- Reinstate the requirement for chains or traction tires on West Burnside and SW Sam Jackson Park Road, as conditions warrant. These two routes serving regional hospitals have often been blocked by vehicles that were abandoned when drivers found themselves unprepared for winter conditions. A first-time implementation of this requirement in January resulted in far fewer abandoned vehicles. Drivers who ignore this requirement will be subject to a citation by Portland Police in the amount of $160.
PBOT is also seeking additional public and private resources to expand the City’s winter weather response next winter by:
- Negotiating a Mutual Aid Agreement with the Seattle Department of Transportation that would make it easier and faster for the two cities to share resources in response to severe winter weather events.
- Seeking information from the private sector about potential plows and other resources the city could hire to address winter storms. A formal Request for Information is being prepared to send to the contracting community, so companies can describe what services they may be able to provide in future storms.
- Working with the Portland Water Bureau to see if their planned equipment purchases could include trucks that could accommodate a snow plow attachment, as PBOT dump trucks are equipped currently.
In addition, PBOT on Tuesday filed a budget request for $2.8 million from the City’s General Fund Budget for 2017-18 to expand the bureau’s ability to clear roads during winter storms. Pending City Council approval, the $2.8 million would be available in the budget year starting July 1.
The budget request includes:
$1.2 million in one-time General Fund investment for equipment, including:
- $342,000 for a grader that will allow PBOT crews to clear hard packed snow from the pavement on critical public safety routes. This will provide a different level of service from snow plows, which only plow to about 1 inch above the pavement.
- $50,000 to convert two six yard dump trucks into de-icing vehicles.
- $12,000 for two aerial drones for use in evaluating landslides and floods;
- $45,000 for three covered storage units to store different de-icing materials such as road salt
- $200,000 for eight drop in sanders/salters to expand de-icing and sanding capacity;
- $100,000 for four fixed, electronic variable message signs to better communicate traveling conditions to the public;
- $120,000 for eight portable, electronic variable message signs to better communicate traveling conditions to the public;
- $45,000 for a fixed camera on West Burnside for timely response to travel hazards, including the need for traction tire requirement;
- $150,000 for two additional storage tanks for anti-icing liquid;
- $150,000 for six new plow blades to attach to de-icing trucks.
- $1.6 million in on-going General Fund investment for additional capacity to address winter storms, including five additional full-time equivalent PBOT staff for weather response; use of Water Bureau trucks and staff to be used as snow plows and plow operators; maintenance of equipment and purchase and storage of larger supplies of de-icing material.
Stay informed with email, text alerts and report road hazards to PBOT
Sign up for email or SMS text message updates on traffic advisories, winter weather tips and more: bit.ly/PBOTupdates
- If conditions require a road closure, notices will be posted to PBOT's Twitter account @PBOTinfo and a road closure web page will be established under FEATURED section of PBOT's web site portlandoregon.gov/transportation
- For updates from PBOT and other city, county and state agencies in the region, see PublicAlerts.org - a one-stop clearinghouse for alerts and weather information.
- Report road hazards including downed trees or water blocking travel lanes to PBOT’s 24-hour hotline: firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-823-1700.
Advice for the public:
Be prepared, expect conditions to vary
While the snow and ice amounts may vary, it never hurts to be prepared!
The best advice for traveling in bad winter weather is not to travel at all if you can avoid it. Wait until conditions improve before venturing out in winter weather. Allow the snow plows, sanding trucks, and other emergency vehicles to get out ahead of you to treat conditions. Allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.
The City of Portland’s Snow and Ice Plan discourages private vehicle use and encourages public transit use instead. Plan ahead for your public transit commute by calling 503-238-RIDE (7433), visiting TriMet.org for bus and MAX light rail schedules and alerts or PortlandStreetcar.org for streetcar schedules and alerts. In snow and ice, plan for bus delays of 20 to 30 minutes. Know where your transit stops are before venturing out.PBOT provides tips for winter travel for people walking, biking or driving. Learn more at: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/47307
Winter travel safety tips
Carry an emergency weather kit
Have a well-stocked emergency kit in your vehicle to keep you safe and more comfortable during long waits. Your kit should include chains, shovel, bag of sand, battery jumper cables, first aid kit, basic tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver and knife), blanket, extra clothing (hats, socks, boots, mittens), flashlight, and a cell phone or CB Radio.
Expect slippery sidewalks; clear your own as well
In a winter storm, the sidewalk in front of your neighbor’s house may be the slickest surface you encounter. PBOT applies anti-icer and uses snow plows to clear streets along bus routes, but property owners are responsible for ensuring safe passage on sidewalks.
Look out for people on bike or out walking
Be watchful for people walking and bicycling who are also trying to get around in hazardous, low visibility conditions. Share the Road safely and responsibly.
You are responsible for your vehicle
If you choose to drive, stay with your vehicle in a snow and ice storm. Any abandoned vehicle is subject to being cited and impounded. To locate your vehicle, call Police Auto Records at 503-823-0044. If you are driving and visibility and conditions are getting worse rapidly, do not stop in a travel lane. Any vehicle creating a safety hazard is subject to towing. The citation for "preventing free passage" is $80 and the current contractual cost of a tow is $168, so motorists can expect to pay at least $248. The cost to store a towed vehicle past the initial four hours is $25 per day.
Look for an opportunity to pull off the road into a safe parking area and wait for conditions to improve. If you cannot reach your home, move your vehicle off a major street or plow route onto a side street so that plows can completely open up major streets. If you become stuck or stranded in severe weather, stay with your vehicle for warmth and safety until help arrives. While you wait for help to arrive, open a window slightly for ventilation, run your motor sparingly, and use your emergency flashers.
Recover your vehicle as soon as possible
Parking regulations and other road safety regulations remain enforceable during a winter storm. If you leave your vehicle parked in a metered parking space or other time zone during a winter storm, recover your vehicle as soon as possible when conditions improve. If you receive a citation, follow the instructions on the back of it to resolve it or contest it with the County Circuit Court.
Chains - your link to safety!
Buy chains, practice putting them on your car, carry them in your vehicle, and use them. You may need them unexpectedly!
Do not bike, walk or drive in front of a snow plow. Do not pass snow plows or sanding trucks, which are focused on the city's busiest streets. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.