A: Priority snow routes are streets that are plowed every snowstorm. Priority One snow routes are plowed first and consist of busy arterial and major collector streets such as Union Boulevard, Bear Creek Boulevard, West Alameda Avenue and West Jewell Avenue. Priority One routes cover 160 miles and provide the transportation network for police, fire and rescue vehicles. Priority Two and Three routes are plowed next. They include some streets in school zones and shopping areas, minor collector streets and residential streets that are steep and have sharp curves or have particularly difficult access. There are 125 miles of Priority Two and Three streets.
The focus of Lakewood’s snow plan is to provide a transportation network that is travelable and as safe as possible for the conditions. To accomplish this, the city first plows and maintains the Priority One streets so that higher traffic volumes are able to flow and emergency vehicles have access throughout the city. During major storms and blizzards with high rates of snowfall, crews remain on Priority One streets until snow accumulation has slowed, these streets are cleared as much as possible and deicing material for traction and melting has been applied where necessary. Crews might have to plow and replow Priority One streets several times before being able to move to Priority Two and Three streets.
See a map showing the priority routes(PDF, 3MB).
A: All available equipment and drivers are typically deployed for snow events with measurable snow accumulation or ice formation. Usually, crews operate 24-hours-a-day in two 12-hour shifts. The crews first plow Priority One routes to completion and then move to Priority Two and Priority Three routes. Some storms require that plows move back to Priority One routes after starting on other Priority Two or Three routes because of the conditions.
Residential streets that are not part of the priority routes are plowed only when snow is deep enough to seriously impede mobility and melting is not forecast to occur quickly. If residential streets are plowed before the snow seriously impedes cars, many residents become frustrated by the pile of snow across their driveways known as a “windrow.” Additionally, plowing the 204 miles of residential streets costs a minimum of $75,000 for each storm, and if there are frequent storms during a winter, it could double the annual costs of snowplowing. Typically, the city’s annual snowplowing costs about $1.4 million, which doesn’t include regular plowing of all residential streets.
A: If you have a serious medical or other type of emergency, please call 911. The police have direct communications with the snow removal supervisor to address these situations.
A: Plows are sent out on Priority One snow routes as soon as any measurable snow begins to accumulate on the pavement. Priority One, Two and Three streets are plowed to completion, which means the streets are travelable.
Crews can also spray a light application of liquid anti-icing material in certain conditions on some arterial streets such as Union in preparation for a storm. This anti-icing material reduces the potential for snow to bond to the pavement and makes plowing more effective.
A. Conditions can vary immensely among snowstorms, and the city must weigh the cost of plowing streets against the potential benefit to residents. The addition of regularly plowing residential streets would likely require a significant expansion of staff and snowplows and create a considerable impact on the city’s budget.
For example, a late spring storm of 12 inches overnight will begin to melt before plows even begin plowing residential streets, and people can usually negotiate the unplowed streets because the high pavement and air temperatures make for slushy instead of icy conditions. Plowing streets when the snow is heavy and wet also leaves large windrows of snow at driveway entrances, which are difficult for residents to remove.
A 12-inch snowstorm in late December is not likely to melt quickly, and if streets are not plowed, mobility can be significantly impaired. Short days and lower temperatures mean that the snow can be expected to stick around for a while. In this case, the city would probably decide to plow residential streets.
Each snow removal operation must be managed based on conditions specific to that storm including snowfall, air temperature, wind speeds and drifting, pavement temperature, duration of the storm, contractor equipment needed/available and sun melt conditions.
A: During large snow events (generally greater than 12 inches), updates on snow removal operations will be available on Lakewood.org, Channel 8, and the city’s social media. These updates will include general status of snowplowing operations, a tentative schedule for completing plowing operations and the inclusion of all residential streets. When residential streets are being plowed, an ending time for completion of all residential plowing will be given, but the time a specific street will be plowed cannot be given. There are too many variables such as weather, equipment breakdowns, traffic congestion, emergencies, plows getting stuck, etc., to specify a time for any given street.
A: Comments or requests about an unplowed street or hazardous icy conditions can be made online at the city’s customer service hub, Lakewood.org/RequestLakewood, which also allows photos to be included. Residents can also leave a message at 303-987-7950. Due to the volume of calls during large snowstorms, a city representative does not answer calls, and no return contact is made. Callers are informed of this in the recorded message on the number and on Lakewood.org. All equipment and drivers are on the streets during storms and are unavailable to talk with residents.
A: The city’s first responsibility is to plow and maintain Lakewood’s arterial and collector streets to allow higher traffic volumes to flow and to provide access for emergency vehicles. During major storms, the wind and heavy snow accumulation requires plows to work and rework the major streets to keep them open. If the city spreads its equipment over all the streets at the same time during a major storm, all the streets would become impassable. It is essential to keep the main streets open. If the city were to divert a plow to your street, it would delay the city’s ability to keep traffic flowing and delay completion of the plowing.
A: The city plows all the major streets first to allow rapid travel of police, fire and ambulance vehicles to all areas of Lakewood. If these emergency vehicles then need assistance accessing a particular property on a local street, they will contact a plow operations supervisor.
A: City snowplowing is focused on making motor vehicle lanes passable and minimizing the effects created by piles of snow. Unfortunately, these priorities result in bicycle lanes containing snow and ice because of the variety of circumstances that exist along and near bicycle lanes.
Plow drivers are instructed to avoid damaging vehicles parked along the street and depositing snow on sidewalks when possible. The result can be that snow is intentionally plowed onto bicycle lanes. Owners of vehicles who park on the street do, in some circumstances, clear their cars of snow, leaving deposits in bicycle or combination bike-parking lanes.
In many cases, the bicycle lanes that now exist in Lakewood were created using pavement that was used for snow storage during winters before the bicycle lane was created.
A: There are more than 40,000 driveways in Lakewood. If plows stopped to clean each driveway, it would take several days to finish plowing the city streets. Residents have the responsibility for clearing plowed windrows to keep their driveways accessible.
A: By city ordinance, everyone is expected to clean adjacent sidewalks within 24 hours after the end of the snowfall and then keep them clear of ice and snow. Residents who may be physically unable to clear their sidewalks should consider making an arrangement with a neighbor or a volunteer neighborhood group or paying a company that provides snow removal services.
A: Plows drivers try to be cautious to plow the street without pushing a windrow onto the sidewalk, but sometimes it happens. If the snow amount is reasonable, residents should clear the sidewalk again. If the snow amount is excessive or beyond a resident’s ability to clear, report this situation by sending a request online at Lakewood.org/RequestLakewood or calling 303-987-7950.
A: The Colorado Department of Transportation has the responsibility for plowing Kipling, Wadsworth, Colfax, Sheridan, Morrison Road, Sixth Avenue (US 6), Hampden (US 285), C-470 and Interstate 70 in Lakewood. The city does not and cannot start plowing these state highways. It would pull city plows off Lakewood streets and be a significant impact to the city’s budget.
A: There are multiple reasons this could occur:
- The truck is going in for repairs to the plow/hydraulics/sanding unit. If the driver lowers the broken plow unit, the driver cannot raise it again.
- The truck is cutting across another driver’s “zone” going to another work area. If this driver starts plowing over the top of another driver’s route, the second driver can plow driveways shut again and plow off traction material that was just spread by another plow. It can also confuse the sequence of operations of other drivers.
- There are 285 miles of priority streets that need to be plowed during a storm, and each plow has approximately 30 lane-miles (one lane on each side of the street) to complete. Crews need to concentrate on the streets they are assigned.
Remember, snow removal operations are often occurring under difficult conditions such as heavy snowfall, low visibility, parked cars covered by snow and impeding plowing, other active vehicles, etc. What may look like an obvious action may not be when you are one of more than two dozen drivers coordinating plowing operations across Lakewood.
A: Snowplows don’t have the ability to break up and clear ice from residential streets after ice has formed under tire tracks. In cold weather, neither truck-mounted plows nor motor graders can remove ice. When residential streets are plowed, the goal is to make all streets passable, not necessarily bare, within 48 hours after snowfall has stopped.
A: Plowing to the curb would bury the sidewalks under large, hard windrows of snow. Plowing to the curb would also block the gutter flow line and prevent melted snow from draining, which creates ice buildup in the street and on sidewalks when temperatures drop at night. In addition, plowing residential streets to the curb after a large storm would be difficult due to the number of parked cars on many streets. As a result, snowplows are typically able to make only two, 10-foot passes on priority residential streets. When the decision is made in severe snowstorms to plow all residential streets, plow drivers will only make one, 10-foot pass down the residential street.
A: Snowplow drivers mark off streets on their zone map as they complete the street. Occasionally a street is missed even during a storm. In some cases, a street may be bypassed if the plow driver is concerned for safety; for example, cars on both sides of a cul-de-sac make it hard to back the plow to the end of the cul-de-sac to plow the street.
In severe storm conditions, many residents believe their street hasn’t been plowed because several inches of ice remain. Such streets may have been plowed multiple times, but thick ice cannot be removed by plowing. It can only be removed by a ripping operation using ripper teeth or the corner of a motor grader blade. This type of operation is very slow and results in large chunks of ice, which must be plowed to the side. If the chunks are plowed to the side of the street, driveways must be cleared. It is usually better to leave the ice pack until weather warms up, and the ice is more malleable.
A: The city has made commitments to the Denver Regional Council of Governments to reduce the amount of sand used in snow operations to help improve the metro area’s air quality. Improving the air quality is also a factor in obtaining federal grants for transportation projects within Lakewood. The city also weighs the potential benefit to residents against the cost of purchasing, applying and then, after plowing is complete, sweeping material. To reduce the amount of sand used, it is not applied to relatively flat, straight stretches of roadway. In these cases, motorists are expected to reduce their speeds to match the conditions.
A: On major arterial streets, snowplows apply ice slicer/liquid brine. On other streets, the snowplow operators spread a mixture of white salt (sodium chloride), ice slicer, and sand.
The city also uses an anti-icing/deicing strategy on several major streets. This strategy involves spraying a light application of liquid anti-icing material on streets prior to snow developing. This anti-icing material prevents snow from bonding to the pavement and makes plowing more effective. Once snow does begin to accumulate, streets will be treated with a solid deicing product that will melt the snow and provide traction. Except in very heavy or cold snow events, sand will not be used on the streets scheduled for anti-icing/deicing, which include but are not limited to Jewell Avenue, Alameda Avenue, Bear Creek Boulevard, Garrison Street, Indiana Street and Union Boulevard.
A: The city has two types of plow trucks consisting of 13 tandem-axle rear-wheel drive trucks and 13 single-axle all-wheel drive trucks. All plow trucks are equipped with salt/sand spreaders and 11-foot wide plows weighing about 2,000 pounds each.
Six of the tandem-axle trucks also have nine-foot side wing plows to assist with plowing greater widths. The side wing plows are utilized on Alameda, Jewell, and South Kipling for a section that the city plows instead of CDOT, and Union. In addition, two contract single-axle plows and three one-ton pickups are utilized. The all-wheel drive trucks are very useful in hillier areas of town with many cul-de-sacs due to their tighter turning radius and increased traction.
The city owns one all-wheel drive motor grader and during large storms has the ability to lease contractor motor graders.
Truck-mounted plows are not able to remove packed ice in cold temperatures.
Motor graders can sometimes remove ice during the day when temperatures rise and the sun is melting the ice.
A: Small trucks can be effective in some storms, if the snow is relatively light, dry, and not deep. These trucks would, at some point, be rendered ineffective when the snow becomes deep or wet. The city’s approach, which is to bring in additional heavy equipment during large storms, gives us the best chance of clearing the streets adequately during heavy storm events of all types.
Training, staffing and upgrading a fleet of small plows to handle residential streets is not the most effective approach, particularly because the pickups will not be useful in large storms, which is when residential streets could need plowing.
A: If a snowplow tries to follow the curve around the outside of a cul-de-sac, the truck grinds to a stop with all its wheels spinning. In heavy snow particularly, a turning truck cannot exert much force on snow in front of the blade. To remedy this problem, snowplows do not turn with the plow in a cul-de-sac. A plowed zone is created in the street that residents can dig to from their driveways, even though the zone might be up to 20 feet or more from the end of their driveways. On dead-end streets, snowplows cannot turn around and can get stuck, so the same procedure is used to provide a clear zone.
A: Private companies that sell advertising on the bus shelters and benches are responsible for many of the bus stops in Lakewood. Those private companies clean and maintain those bus stops. Realistically, it’s nearly impossible to clear them all when snowplows are clearing streets for traffic. The Regional Transportation District is responsible for park-n-Rides. No government agency has the ability to clear the hundreds of additional road-side bus stops shortly after a storm, particularly when repeated snowplowing pushes snow into the stops.