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PBOT Press Release: Changing Conditions Create New Challenges

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 24th, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Here's the latest storm advisory from the Bureau of Transportation (online here):

Changing Conditions Create New Challenges for Road Crews, Travelers, and Property Owners

(PORTLAND, OR) – Severe winter weather conditions continue to work against City crews as they continue to plow priority routes 24 hours a day since Sunday, December 14, when an arctic air mass entered the Portland metropolitan region. Additional snowfall and icy road conditions are making travel treacherous. The public is advised as follows:

* Avoid unnecessary travel; limit travel to essential trips;
* Use mass transit rather than driving;
* Stay tuned to local weather forecasts and traffic advisories (www.TripCheck.com);
* Use traction tires or chains as appropriate.

Storm Response Operations

The City’s goal is to keep priority routes open for commerce and mass transit. Today’s operations are focused on the following:

* Plow bridges, overpasses, and other known hazard areas to keep those exposed areas from freezing.
* Plow primary and secondary routes (major arterials, transit routes, emergency response routes for Police, Fire, and ambulance, and neighborhood collectors) to provide a wide and smooth driving surface and continue to peel away the layers of packed snow and ice.
* Apply sand only on very slick roads as plowing snow is still the best treatment citywide.
* Assist TriMet by plowing streets and snow berms at intersections to re-open service lines on neighborhood streets.
* Provide additional service in the West Hills to enable access for utility crews and residents.
* Use graders to knock off the ice bubbles and level out the bumps around manholes and utility vaults.
* Plow Streetcar lines and MAX light rail crossings to enable more efficient transit operations.
* Discuss the next phase of operations to prevent drainage problems and street flooding in anticipation of the melt-off.

Advisories to Motorists

Changing weather results in variable road conditions. Motorists are advised to travel cautiously and be prepared to respond to rapidly changing conditions.

* At this time ODOT is advising motorists to carry chains only on highways in the Portland metro area.
* Clean and prepare your vehicle for low visibility and other winter conditions before venturing out. Windshields are defrosting slowly, wiper blades may be frozen, wipers don’t remove freezing rain easily, other vehicles may spray slushy snow on your windshield, and snow and ice chunks may suddenly fall from the top of your own vehicle onto your windshield.
* Bus routes, in particular, have a lot of rutting with 4-5 inches of snow compacted. Slush could grab your tires and pull you into a rut, causing fishtailing when you try to turn off the rut. Merge slowly and avoid abrupt movements to avoid skidding.
* Maintain at least three car lengths distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you to provide additional reaction, braking, and stopping time.
* If you start to skid, take your foot off both gas and brake, and gently steer into the direction of the skid to regain control.
* If you have trouble, move your vehicle to as far to the right of the road as possible and call for service or a tow truck immediately; do not abandon your vehicle.
* If possible, park your car off-street to allow snow plows to remove snow for the general public and emergency vehicles; plowing activity could trap you in.
* If driving downtown, consider parking in a SmartPark garage in lieu of on-street parking to allow for public and private snow removal.
* If you park your vehicle on the street, clean the snow from it. In cases of significant snowfall, small cars may be buried quickly and resemble snow drifts. Plows could strike a car obscured by snow.
* Do not drive on downed power lines or around barricades.
* For road conditions and closures, visit www.TripCheck.com, select Portland and the link to Portland Winter Travel Info.

Advisories to Pedestrians and Bicyclists

Pedestrians and bicyclists are advised to be careful and cautious in these rapidly changing conditions:

* Do NOT walk in the middle of the street, but instead walk off-street on paths and sidewalks.
* If you believe your only option is to walk in the street, stay as far right as possible and be alert for motor vehicle traffic. Be mindful that visibility is low, traction is poor, and a vehicle could quickly and unpredictably go into a skid.
* Make yourselves visible – wear retro-reflective clothing, use front and rear lights on bicycles, make eye contact with motor vehicle drivers, signal your movements.
* Cross the street at intersections.
* Observe traffic signals.
* Dress warmly.
* Call 503-238-RIDE (7433) for TransitTracker information for TriMet buses, MAX light rail, and the Portland Streetcar.

Advisories to Property Owners and Contractors

Residents and property owners are responsible for maintaining sidewalks adjacent to their properties:

* Clear your sidewalk of snow and ice as soon as possible, according to City Code. Maintain at least a 3-foot-wide path so pedestrians and transit users have a safe place to walk.
* Advise pedestrians of any danger of falling snow or ice from your buildings. Please make arrangements to post an advisory (sign or sandwich board) and eliminate the hazard.
* Clear your driveway along the pedestrian path and sidewalk. City crews will not respond to requests for plowing and sanding residential neighborhood driveways.
* When removing snow from sidewalks and driveways, please pile shoveled snow where it can be absorbed into the ground, not on the street and public right-of-way.
* Clear fire hydrants on your street of snow to help fire personnel in an emergency.
* Visit www.PortlandOnline.com for safe driving tips, plumbing tips from the Portland Water Bureau, and other cold weather tips for taking care of your home and family.
* Check on your neighbors, pull together, and help each other out. The City of Portland greatly appreciates the public giving heed to storm and traffic advisories.

Happy Holidays

Today is the eleventh day of a full callout operation that entails two 12-hour shifts in a 24-hour period. Our crews are dedicated to providing the best service possible to the citizens of Portland under extraordinary circumstances to keep commerce active and the City’s transportation infrastructure functioning. Sanding and plow crews will be working through the holiday to keep the roads clear so citizens can be with family and friends tomorrow. The Bureau of Transportation appreciates the public’s understanding and support throughout this event.

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