Public outcry prompts snow plow plan change, again

Public outcry prompts snow plow plan change, again

Public outcry prompts snow plow plan change, again



Posted on December 7, 2010 at 6:57 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 8 at 1:23 PM

SPOKANE-- The City of Spokane announced changes to its snow removal plan Tuesday following the first real test of the plan over the last couple of weeks. 

“We work for the citizens of Spokane, and we are listening to them and revising our plan,” says Spokane Mayor Mary Verner.  “Dealing with snow is a critical function of City government, and it just makes sense for us to determine ways to make this service better.”

Changes to the plan will include:
• Adding residential hill routes to the Stage 1 Snow Emergency.  Under a Stage 1 Snow Emergency, the City already plows all primary and secondary arterials, fixed STA bus routes, the central business district, neighborhood business districts, and the medical district on lower South Hill.  Residential hill routes are those routes numbered in the 20s on the residential snow plow route map, and include Five Mile, part of Indian Trail, the Eagle Ridge area, and other parts of the South Hill.  To see the map, go to

This will improve conditions on the hills even when there isn’t enough snow for a full Stage 2 Snow Emergency and will provide a jump start on residential plowing if a Stage 2 is needed.

• Deploying graders in residential areas for Stage 2 Snow Emergencies, if conditions warrant.  When starting on residential plowing, the Street Department will test the effectiveness of using truck plows.  If the truck plows cannot remove snow to 0 to 2 inches of material, the department will use graders or grader/truck plow teams to plow in the residential areas.

• Eliminating berms from downtown streets at the conclusion of a full-City plow.  Once a full-City plow is complete, Street crews will be deployed to melt or remove berms from the downtown core.  They will continue this work as long as other storms don’t require they focus once again on plowing streets.

In addition to changing the plan, the City made other changes during the recent series of storms.  The City beefed up server capacity twice for its on-line plowing progress map to avoid the application from becoming overwhelmed.  Staff also worked to provide more timely and useful information on that map, by breaking down residential plow routes into smaller sections.

“Each storm is different, and we anticipate we will find other things that can be improved in the future,” Mayor Verner says.  “Our goal here is to be proactive.”

The City’s snow removal plan is designed to improve safety for motorists and pedestrians, ensure emergency responders can reach citizens, and enhance movement for pedestrians, motorists and economic activity.

The City revised its snow removal plan last year, following two years of heavy snow accumulation, and committed to enhancing snow removal efforts, stepping up sidewalk snow removal around City-owned property, and enhancing communications efforts with citizens.  Under the plan, citizens and business owners are asked to follow parking restrictions and keep sidewalks, vehicles, hydrants, and storm drains clear of snow.

Information on the snow removal plan can be found on the City’s web site at

Under the plan, the City defines the snow season as Nov. 15 to March 15.  During this time, the City may declare a snow emergency when weather conditions warrant. 

A Stage 1 Snow Emergency is declared when 2 inches of snow are on the ground and 4 more are anticipated during the current snow event; a Stage 2 Snow Emergency is declared when 6 inches of snow are on the ground and more is anticipated in the current snow event.  The City will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to clear snow during a Stage 2 Emergency.

A Stage 1 Snow Emergency requires citizens to move parked cars off of all arterials and STA fixed bus routes, while a Stage 2 Snow Emergency requires citizens to park on one side of the street in residential areas.  This year, citizens are asked to park on the side of the street with even number addresses. 

The parking changes will allow plow drivers to open up streets better, allowing for easier and safer travel during heavy snows.  The City expects to issue warnings to those who are parked incorrectly.  Berms will be left on both sides of the street.  Browne’s Addition is treated differently than all other residential areas; the City will announce parking restrictions in that neighborhood as needed.

Another challenge this year has been non-compliance with sidewalk snow removal.  Removing snow from sidewalks within 24 hours of a snow storm is important to help pedestrians.  A committee of citizens, local school representatives, Spokane Transit Authority representatives, and City employees developed at an enhanced approach to sidewalk snow removal that would eventually require tickets for those who failed to comply.  This year, the City is asking for voluntary compliance and will issue warnings to those who don’t shovel their walks.  In the future, the City expects to issue tickets for failure to clear sidewalks.

“We want to thank everyone for their patience and important feedback on our snow removal efforts,” the Mayor says.  “Removing snow is never perfect, but we will continue to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. We are committed to continuous improvement in all our work.”