Bellingham, like much of the Puget Sound region, is somewhere in between long, icy winters and rarely experiencing snow. Significant snowfall in an "in-between" area like Bellingham always raises questions about appropriate levels of snow-related services. When should the City plow streets, and which ones come first? How much snow equipment should the City own? What responsibility do members of the public have for taking care of themselves when it snows?
Public Works Department personnel monitor winter conditions from several
facilities that are staffed 24-hours a day. When possible, deicing solution
is applied to streets in advance of snow and ice. Crews sand roadways when
they are icy or covered with light snow, using a mixture of 80 percent sand
and 20 percent salt.
All the sand added to the streets must be cleaned up later, or it ends up in the storm drain systems, and ultimately the streams or the bay. Crews work hard to find the right balance, making sure that there is enough sand for traction in difficult areas, but not too much.
When weather conditions predict snow, plows are installed on four trucks. As
the snow falls, crews begin pushing snow to the edges of the roadways. The City's policy
is to begin plowing when snow has accumulated a couple inches and snow is
forecast to continue, or when wind and weather conditions are severe enough
to begin earlier. Four-lane roads initially have only one lane plowed in
each direction with additional lanes open as time and conditions permit. Access to side
streets will be cleared only after the priority routes are completely plowed.
Priority routes include arterial streets, bus routes and access routes to critical facilities such as hospitals and fire stations. Within this priority system, routes typically cleared first include Alabama Street, Meridian Street, Cornwall Avenue, Old Fairhaven Parkway and the downtown Central Business District.
The City does not provide snow and ice control for sidewalks or other public walkways. Snow and ice control for these areas is the sole responsibility of the abutting property owner or tenant.