News

Road crews ready for their snow jobs

By PAT JENKINS

Editor

Let is snow. Federal Way and King County are ready.

Road crews have stocked up on de-icing and traction material and set their manpower contingencies in preparation for winter’s worst –– assuming it comes.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” said Pat Foster, who supervises street snow and ice removal for the city.

Depending on whose forecasts one believes, winter weather may or may not make driving miserable. But Federal Way officials don’t expect to be caught off guard.

As conditions warrant, the city sends out its two sanders with plows and two de-icing tanks. For street-clearing the city doesn’t do itself, it has two contracts –– one with the state Department of Transportation for Pacific Highway South, Enchanted Parkway and Dash Point Road, and the other with Lloyd Enterprises, a sand and gravel business that pitches in when all heck breaks loose.

When snow is expected, “we may have crews on standby. Otherwise, we wait to hear from the police” on whether roads are getting slippery before sending crews out, said Marwan Salloum, street system manager.

In addition to street crews, parks and surface-water workers are also pressed into duty. The crews work 12-hour shifts when necessary.

Along with sand, they spread a liquid de-icer called NC 3000 that prevents snow from freezing on the pavement. Environment-friendly because it’s made from corn syrup, the solution is fairly new to the snow-removal world. Federal Way is one of the first places on the West Coast using it, according to Foster.

Crews wait until the temperature is 35 degrees and humidity is 50 percent or less before applying NC 3000. “It lasts longer” in those conditions, Foster said.

County road officials say “pre-season scrimmages” have prepped them earlier than usual for winter storms.

“We’ve already dealt with major flooding and a significant cold snap," said Linda Dougherty, director of King County’s road services division.

The division has 32 snowplows, 11 graders and four de-icing trucks for the 2,500 miles of county roadway, plus the streets in 10 cities with which the county contracts. Dougherty said 27,000 cubic yards of sand and 210 tons of salt are stockpiled at road maintenance sites throughout the county.

Highest in priority for snow removal are major arterials, Metro Transit and school bus routes, roads leading to hospitals and accesses to freeways and park-and-ride lots.

Metro buses will follow their regular routes as much as possible, rerouting when neeeded to avoid hazards, officials said.

Most of Metro’s 1,300 buses have “the latest equipment to enhance traction in bad weather,” said general manager Rick Walsh. “Our drivers are well-trained to handle diverse terrain and weather conditions.”

But don’t expect miracles. When the weather turns bad and more people ride buses instead of driving themselves, buses get more crowded, telephone waits for route information get longer, and the buses navigate slower in bad conditions, which may mean passengers wait longer at bus stops, Walsh noted.

Federal Way Public Schools will report school closures and-or reduced bus schedules through television and radio stations.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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