Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Snow plows balance need, demand

By Anya Rao and Stephenie Steitzer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Diane Van Epps' Honda Civic struggled through the snowy slush Sunday morning up Grand Avenue hill in Fort Thomas — the route to St. Luke hospital.

  • Closings, delays
  • Traffic conditions
  • White Christmas predicted
  To report untreated, slick roads:
  • On Ohio interstates, call (800) 831-2142.
  • On Hamilton County roads, call (513) 761-7400
  • In the city of Cincinnati, call (513) 591-6000.
        Though the street had been cleared hours earlier by road crews, it was a mess again just before noon.

        “Once we got to the Fort Thomas line on Grand, the road was clear,” she said. “If Fort Thomas can keep their half clear, why can't Newport?”

        The snow generates complaints from drivers when their street isn't cleared fast enough or often enough. But consider for a moment ... the rest of the story.

        In rural Fayette County, Ind., county crews maintain 381 miles of roadway — 81 of them gravel. County Highway Superintendent Howard Price said that during an average snowstorm it takes crews 12 to 13 hours to plow and salt the main roads with eight plow/salt trucks, plus three additional salt trucks.

        The city of Cincinnati is responsible for keeping 3,945 city streets clear.

        “We have 103 trucks but can have as many as 180 out on the road if we need to use snow-removing vehicles from other departments, such as water works and the parks department,” said Diana Frey, spokeswoman for the city's Department of Public Services.

        The responsibility for snow removal falls among a slew of municipal, county and state highway departments, so there's no easy answer on whom to call if your street isn't cleared by morning rush hour.

        The 32 trucks of the Ohio Department of Transportation, for example, clear interstates, U.S. routes and state routes in southwest Ohio - except state routes within the city of Cincinnati.

        “We have used 3,000 tons of salt so far this season, we have 55,000 tons remaining and have ordered 2,500 tons more,” said Kim Patton, spokesman for ODOT.

        Hamilton County maintenance engineer Steve Mary must make sure 500 miles of county roads are treated when snow falls. Mr. Mary relies on the salt truck drivers and reports from the sheriff's office to determine which areas need additional treatment.

        “The salt truck drivers usually know where the steep hills and busy intersections are located and those areas are treated first,” Mr. Mary said.

        Clermont County's annual cost for melting materials, truck maintenance and crew overtime is $350,000.

        Often, the effectiveness of plowing is hampered by parked cars. Cincinnati high-traffic areas have signs that warn drivers not to park in certain locations during snow emergencies so the area can be plowed and salted.

        “A "snow emergency' is usually six inches of snow or more,” Ms. Frey said. “When a snow emergency is in effect, drivers will be notified through radio and TV stations.”

        And as for that slick Grand Avenue roadway Sunday, Jim McCulley, supervisor of the Newport Public Works department, said it's one of the first streets cleaned after a snowstorm because of the hospital.

        One of the city's five salt spreaders covered the road about 4:30 a.m. Sunday, he said: “We do stay on top of that route because we know it could be one of our family members that has to get there.”


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