Eagle County snowplow drivers plead for patience
From cars parked in the roadway to traffic concerns, there are lots of challenges
EAGLE COUNTY — Snowplowing efforts are a prime example of how sometimes the very people who need a service hinder its delivery.
Take mid-morning storm on Dec. 5 for example.
Typically municipal, county and state plow drivers take to the streets during the wee morning hours to clear away snow before motorists head out to work. But the storm didn’t start dumping copious amounts of snow until the drive time hit, bringing plowing/driving conflicts to roads countywide.
But even under the best of circumstances, people and plows don’t always peaceably co-exist.
“The biggest thing I would preach to everyone is to have some patience,” said Gypsum Public Works Director Jeff Shreeve.
Lots of road to clear
The various jurisdictions that plow roads throughout the county have similar priorities. Their first goal is to clear the main thoroughfares and bus routes. Crews from the Colorado Department of Transportation are responsible for snowplowing along Interstate 70, U.S. Highway 6 and state highways.
Moving off the main highways, snowplow crews need to make sure motorists can get back to I-70 and Highway 6 along highly-traveled roads. After those priority areas are clear, crews then venture into residential areas.
From Vail to Dotsero, there is a whole lot of roadway to tackle when snow starts piling up. Eagle County, for example, is responsible for snow removal on approximately 260 miles of roadway, ranging from El Jebel and Basalt to the south, McCoy to the north, Vail to the east and Dotsero to the west. The county’s routes also include Edwards and EagleVail.
Crews from various municipal governments may not have quite that much roadway to clear, but they also hit the streets between 2 and 3 a.m. during a typical snowfall.
“We like to get out there early so you don’t have people packing the snow down,” said Shreeve. “You also have obstacles when you plow during the day — cars parked on the streets, traffic and people putting out trash cans.”
What’s more, motorists and residents sometimes fail to understand the dynamics of snowplowing.
“People want the snow removed quickly, but the faster you go, the further it flies and the snow covers the sidewalk,” Shreeve said.
A frequent snowplowing complaint is that trucks push snow and block shoveled driveways. But it isn’t practical to expect a plow driver, who is tasked with removing snow from roadways in a timely manner, to clear out every driveway along a route, Shreeve said.
“People have to understand that there is only so many places we can put a load of snow,” he added.
In anticipation of a heavy snow year, Eagle County has shared the following advice for residents to remember when the snowplows hit the streets:
- Snow removal crews begin work early in the morning, typically between 3 and 4 a.m., and continue until all routes are complete.
- School bus and emergency routes, categorized as priority one roads, are plowed first. Side streets or residential collector streets, business access, and lesser-traveled streets such as cul-de-sacs, which are categorized as priority two and three, are plowed next. Depending on weather conditions, it may be later in the day before priority two and three roads are plowed.
- Be aware that it is illegal to park on county-maintained roads or in county rights-of-way, which typically extend approximately 10 feet off the edge of the road. Rights-of-way are intended to be used for snow storage, therefore it is not recommended that valuable landscaping be placed within this area.
- Exercise patience with the snow removal process and drive with caution around equipment.
- Each plowing operation during a snowstorm may result in a berm of snow across driveways, so if possible wait to shovel driveways until after plows have finished and do not put snow or any other debris in the roadway.
- Snow removal activities must not obstruct access to fire hydrants. Spaces around hydrants should be maintained so they are readily accessible to firefighters.
- Do not place trash cans in roadways, and retrieve empty trash cans as soon as possible.
- Educate children about the dangers of playing near snow removal equipment and discourage the building of forts or caves in snow banks, especially near roads. Wear reflective clothing while jogging or walking along a road in the dark.
Gore Creek since 2013 has been listed on the state’s list of “impaired waterways.” Several years of work are paying off, but getting off the list has become more difficult.