County begins planning for possible snowstorms

More plowed roads in the works for Renton

In February heavy snow storms kept county roads locked down. As snow plows made way through unincorporated King County, Executive Dow Constantine said some parts were too deep to plow and launched a nonemergency hotline for residents stuck at their homes. The county also asked that people check on their neighbors.

It’s still in the air how winter 2019 is going to shake out— the National Weather Service has indicated the Northwest as a neutral area this year. But this time around the county wants to have more roads ready.

King County Council voted to add 70 miles to the emergency snow and ice routes, helping drivers connect to the major roads during the next snowstorm. It includes 19.2 miles within the vicinity of Fairwood and the East Renton Highlands. Parts of Maple Valley Heights and Mirrormont will also receive more snow plows.

Previously, the response plan had 583 miles of designated snow routes for the the 1,500 miles of county road. The new routes focus on areas 500 feet above sea level.

“Last winter, our crews worked around the clock plowing and de-icing hundreds of miles of roads in unincorporated King County,” stated Road Services Director Rick Brater in a King County press release. “It took more than 30 trucks and plows, and 120 highly dedicated employees, to get the job done.

Road Services is part of King County’s new Department of Local Services. Brater was confirmed as director in March after serving as interim director since October 2018.

Councilmember Reagan Dunn requested the Road Services Division expand snow and ice removal.

“Last February’s snowstorms pushed county resources to the limit and reminded us all of how important it is to be prepared for extreme weather,” Dunn stated in a separate press release on the new routes. “As we go into the next budget cycle, I will continue to work to ensure that more unincorporated roadways are kept clear and safe during winter storms.”

The new snow route plan, approved Oct. 24, will use on-call private contractors to supplement the county’s crews. Road Services is advertising the contract now to potential bidders, which the county hopes to secure before the end of the year. The plan will be funded through the Road Services Department.

“Even with a great team, we sometimes don’t have enough resources to provide the service we want to provide. This Snow and Ice Plan will help us make better use of our limited resources and provide improved service during a very large storm,” Brater stated.

County Council Vice Chair Claudia Balducci called the contracting plan an innovative approach, and she looked forward to seeing how it works. Councilmember Kathy Lambert stated in the press release it was unfortunate not every road in King County can be plowed, but this new plan will create predictability of what roads unincorporated residents will see plowed.

Constantine congratulated Road Services for creating a plan that was unanimously approved.

“These additional 70 miles will help get people where they need to be in the worst winter weather,” Constantine stated in the release. “As winter nears, the Road Services Division stands ready to follow last year’s example of working round-the-clock to deploy all available snow resources in our communities.”

Since the plan’s approval, Road Services is already getting prepared for winter weather. On Oct. 29, the department was briefing emergency regional responders on how to handle upcoming winter weather. King County also started training snow plow crews on Oct. 25.

More information on the Local Services division is available at kingcounty.gov.

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