Champaign makes changes to snow plans

Champaign makes changes to snow plans

CHAMPAIGN — City officials hope the tweaks they're making to how they deal with snow this winter will mean faster plow times and better service for residents.

The changes to the city's snow and ice plan come after one of the most extreme winters in recent history. City officials spent $1.1 million dealing with snowstorms last season, and they dumped 7,183 tons of salt.

"I think it's safe to say that is probably the most salt we've ever used," said public works operations manager Ernesto Salinas.

He said the changes they are looking to make this year are things crews tend to already do. But they want to formalize some of those things in the city's official snow and ice plan, which guides plow crews' response on the roads during snowstorms.

The major tenets of that plan are that primary streets get plowed first, followed by secondary routes and then dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs. That won't change.

The changes affect the more nuanced pieces of the plan, and they will come in two waves during this winter and next.

This winter:

— City parking lots will be cleared within 12 hours of the end of a snow storm. That's down from the current 48-hour standard.

— When two or more inches of snow fall, sidewalks adjacent to city property will be cleared within 12 hours of the end of the storm instead of 24.

— City alleys will be cleared after a snow storm of four inches. Alleys will only be cleared during regular work shifts and after all streets, sidewalks and parking lots have been cleared. The plan did not previously include standards on alleys, although Salinas said it's something crews already do.

— Snow will be removed from sidewalks and parking areas in the downtown area when it's not likely that the snow will melt in the near term and it interferes with access to businesses. The city removed snow from the downtown area last year when it started piling higher than ever.

Next winter:

— Cul-de-sacs and dead end streets will be plowed within 24 hours after primary routes have been plowed, instead of 36 hours.

— For storms where two or fewer inches of snow fall, secondary routes, cul-de-sacs and dead end streets may be cleared during regular or overtime work shifts. The current plan dictates they be cleared during regular work shifts in those lighter snowstorms, but Salinas said the new standard will give city officials more flexibility.

"This goes back to being able to respond better to citizens and having a better customer service response," he said.

— Emergency snow routes — where parking is prohibited when two or more inches of snow falls — will be eliminated. Salinas said that, realistically, by the time emergency snow routes are activated, the routes are fairly clear already. The cost of relocating vehicles at the city's expense does not provide much benefit in getting streets more clear of snow.

According to city documents, the changes coming this winter won't actually have any effect on costs because they are things public works crews already do.

City officials expect the changes coming in 2015 will mean they will have to hire some extra help to get the work done in time. It could cost the city an extra $35,000 or so to enlist contractors during those bigger snow storms on top of the $17,500 already budgeted. It could save $8,500 to $12,000, however, in staff overtime and towing fees by eliminating emergency snow routes.

But every winter is unpredictable, city officials say, and those figures depend largely on the severity of the weather.

Sections (2):News, Local

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
rsp wrote on October 14, 2014 at 11:10 pm

I think the emergency routes should be rethought in a different way. Maybe it should be considered as part of a disaster plan for the roads we know will be cleared first. Normal snow isn't a disaster to us. But if there was a different kind of event it could help to know what was going to happen.

welive wrote on October 15, 2014 at 9:10 am

City officials expect the changes coming in 2015 will mean they will have to hire some extra help to get the work done in time. It could cost the city an extra $35,000 or so to enlist contractors during those bigger snow storms on top of the $17,500 already budgeted. It could save $8,500 to $12,000, however, in staff overtime and towing fees by eliminating emergency snow routes.

so by requireing a faster time to get things cleared of course they will have to put more staff on so i love that it could cost the city a extra 35 grand but it could maybe save 12$ grand.please where is the logic in this one ? and towing fees? i didnt know the city paid the tow truck companys to remove the cars.Everytime i got towed it was a kool 100$ out of my pocket.

-