Northfield snow plows keep city safe in winter weather - Northfield MN: Local

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Northfield snow plows keep city safe in winter weather

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Posted: Monday, December 16, 2013 3:59 pm | Updated: 5:14 pm, Tue Dec 24, 2013.

When the snow flies, the plows come out. Northfield’s Department of Public Works constantly looks for ways to more efficiently plow the city’s streets and deal with snow emergencies, and this year is no different. Read on to learn a little bit more about how the city keeps Northfield’s streets safe during blustery Minnesota winters.

How does the Public Works Department choose which streets to plow and in what order?

Assistant Public Works Director Brian Erickson explained that the first streets to be plowed are the city’s main routes or “collector” streets, which allow traffic flow into different neighborhoods. City streets such as Jefferson Road, Lincoln Parkway and Division Street are plowed first before moving into strictly neighborhood streets. The hope is that enough streets will be cleared quickly so that people can easily access the main part of town and that school buses can easily pick up children. If more people live on a street, it’s more likely to be plowed first.

When do the plows come out?

The city doesn’t send out the plows until at least two inches of snow have fallen. Usually, plows come out around midnight-2 a.m. to ensure that the streets are safe for morning traffic. The city’s goal is to finish plowing within 12 hours of snowfall, though that can’t always happen. The streets, while plowed, are not expected to be completely snow-free but rather safe for driving.

The department has tried plowing later to avoid evening traffic, but then it can be difficult to finish by the time morning commuters head out.

“This town never goes quiet,” said Streets and Parks Supervisor T.J. Heinricy.

What kind of plowing equipment does the city have?

The city owns four single axle dump trucks, three front-end loaders, a motor grader, a front-end mounted snow blower, a tractor with a plow, a tractor with a broom, two small lawn tractors, a skid-steer and a pickup with brine tanks for pretreating snow routes.

What is pretreating?

Roads are pretreated when staff applies chemicals to the streets to prevent a bond forming between the pavement and the snow and ice during a winter storm. The city also puts down salt on the roads to help melt any ice. This year, the city has ordered about 800 tons of salt for the winter.

Where do they put the snow?

Plowed snow is transported to the rodeo grounds, where it stays until spring.

What about cul-de-sacs?

The city does not remove snow from cul-de-sacs; instead, plows push the snow around the edges. Assistant Public Works Director Brian Erickson said the department tries to ensure residents can still access their driveways. The department has tried piling up snow in the middle of cul-de-sacs to avoid dumping too much in residents’ yards, but this causes problems with water run-off turning into ice and with kids playing in the potentially dangerous snow piles.

“Nobody wants a 10-foot pile of snow in their front yard, but we don’t have anywhere else to put it,” Erickson said, explaining it makes much more sense to leave it in the cul-de-sacs than to haul it somewhere else.

What kind of complaints has the department received regarding snow removal?

“We’ve already had a few complaints,” Heinricy said. “We try to do it in a timely manner, and we try to do things efficiently, but we can’t please everybody.”

One common complaint is how noisy the plows can be when they drive by at night, but Erickson said there isn’t really a way to change that. People also call to question why their street doesn’t get plowed more quickly, to which Erickson replied that it’s a matter of priority and reaching streets that have the most traffic first. Erickson also said it’s important for people to realize that snow plows cover areas twice, so residents shouldn’t shovel out their driveways until the plow makes its second round.

“[People] are going to complain,” agreed City Engineer Joe Stapf. “[But] we don’t have $1 million worth of snow plowing equipment just to torment them.”

Grace Webb covers the cities of Northfield and Lonsdale, and writes about public safety. You can reach her at 645-1117.

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1 comment:

  • College Student posted at 7:52 am on Thu, Dec 19, 2013.

    College Student Posts: 222

    hmmm... the sad thing is there are STILL sidewalks that have yet to be plowed behind the Target on the southend... A few were plowed recently within a day or two but there are still a few that have about 4-6inches drifts still.. Granted it's a vacant lot but somebody should be able to plow it at least 3-4 days after a snowfall... I'm hoping they will plow it soon!


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