Tuesday, May 24, 2022

It's beginning to look a lot like winter on county's roads

by JASON TOPP Contributing Writer
| November 14, 2021 1:00 AM

Hello Bonner County drivers,

It’s beginning to look like that time of year again. The recent rains have played havoc on some of our gravel roads. Grader operators are running hard to get these roads graded up before we have a big freeze to help alleviate the potholes going into winter. Snow is starting to fall and stick in the higher elevations; temperatures are dropping and some of the roads are starting to become slick. I hope most of you have installed your winter tires on your vehicles.

It is the observation of the Road Department that there appears to be plenty of new residents in the county and that also means there will be plenty of people unfamiliar with Bonner County plowing protocols. Please remember that county roads are not maintained 24 hours a day, seven days a week and make sure you have good winter tires on your vehicles. Please be prepared for a steady routine of slippery roads.

Winter road maintenance is expensive, hazardous for operators and time consuming. Bonner County spent nearly $2,000,000 last winter providing safer roads. Snow plowing commences after several inches have accumulated on roadways. Bonner County Road & Bridge operates three districts to maintain around 700 miles of road, but all adhere to these priorities for our winter maintenance:

First priority — School bus routes, arterials, and major collectors

Second priority — All other county-maintained roads after first priority roadways

Third priority — Sanding generally begins after plowing a road is completed.

Sand is applied to steeper roadway grades, at intersections, on bridges, and other areas determined to be hazardous. It is not standard policy to sand straight stretches of roadway because of snow floor. Road salt will be used along with sand in a few problem areas this year on our asphalt roadways only. This is new to Bonner County this year. We are very hopeful that this will help alleviate the amount of time we spend on these problem areas and make it safer for the traveling public.

Mailboxes in county road rights-of-way suffer greatly from snow plowing activity and are the responsibility of the owner. Most people underestimate the weight of snow being pushed from the road, so if you can wiggle your mailbox, there is a fair probability that plowed snow will take it down. County operators do not intentionally damage mailboxes but maintain speed to throw snow from the road. The growing number of garbage cans placed for pickup within the right of way must be kept out of the plowed travel surface because they will end up in the ditch and create an unsightly mess that individuals are responsible for.

Residents who remove snow from their driveways are reminded that Idaho Code 18-3906 prohibits placing snow or ice on any public road in a manner that impedes traffic or makes it unsafe and 18-3907 prohibits the placing of snow in any manner that affects the water flow of a ditch line. If your snow plowing affects the county’s plowing or anyone driving the road, you are breaking the law.

You can help

There are several ways the public can help make the county’s job more cost effective and safe:

_ Vehicles must not be parked on roadways during snow events. Vehicles will be buried in the snow berm and/or towed if interfering with the plow route. Once the berm is in place, it is the resident’s responsibility to shovel their vehicle out. Please remember — our roads are not city streets.

_ Landscape features such as rocks, fences or planters should be removed from the rights-of-way for the winter. They may be destroyed by snow plowing, but they can also do substantial damage to snowplows. Owners are responsible for county equipment that are unnecessarily damaged by these types of features.

_ Do not push snow over ends of culverts or drainage structures. Rapid warming cycles in winter could result in overloaded ditches being unable to drain. Local flooding could occur.

_ Mailboxes are damaged during snow removal operations. Replacement of damaged mailboxes is the responsibility of the property owner/resident per the Bonner County Road Standards Manual, Section 8.

_ Snow removal operations require the use of large and heavy equipment during periods of darkness usually accompanied by limited visibility caused by falling snow. Bonner County operators are trained, and safety is always stressed. Drivers of automobiles should follow at a safe distance where the operator can see you in his mirrors.

_ Children love to watch the large equipment, noise, lights, and the activity of snow removal operations. Try to remember the snow being thrown from the snowplows is very wet and heavy. Please keep children a safe distance away. The concentration required for snow removal, means the operators may not always be able to see people close by and accidents could result.

_ Please encourage children not to build tunnels, forts or play in snow berms.

Information on the Road & Bridge website — bonnercountyid.gov/departments/roadbridge — may help residents be proactive in securing their mailboxes and safeguarding articles placed in the county right-of-way. We want everyone to have a safe and secure winter.

For information, call the Bonner County Road & Bridge, 208-255-5681, ext. 1; Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Jason Topp is director of Bonner County Road & Bridge.