PBOT will use 100 tons of rock salt for upcoming storm

The plan includes future storm response

A snow plow moves through the streets of Portland, January 13, 2017 (KOIN)
A snow plow moves through the streets of Portland, January 13, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced new plans to better address winter weather on Wednesday afternoon.

With snow and other winter precipitation expected in the Portland metro area on Thursday evening, PBOT is ramping up efforts to keep streets clear.

After the last winter storm dumped several inches of snow on Portland, some were upset with PBOT’s response. Seattle sent supplies and trucks to help PBOT with snowy streets.

As part of its immediate actions, PBOT will use 100 tons of rock salt on N Going Street, a major trade route, SW Terwilliger Boulevard, which serves 4 hospitals, and SE 112th Avenue, a frequent trouble spot.

They will start salting those roads Thursday night.

According to PBOT, this is the largest use of salt in the modern history of Portland.

Salt will not be used in areas that will directly impact watershed areas.

On Going Street they will use magnesium chloride on one side and salt on the other to see what works better. The city used this experiment on Terwilliger Boulevard. during the most recent storm as well. The results of that test were inconclusive but PBOT director Leah Treat said that had a lot to do with the timing of the treatment.

PBOT will also expand its 1,120 lane miles of plow routes to 340 more lane miles that are school bus routes. PBOT hopes help schools stay open in winter weather.

Treat said when plows are driving around with the blades up, that doesn’t mean they aren’t working. She said that might mean the conditions are bad enough that it would damage the plow or the road, or the truck is just laying sand or breaking up ice.

PBOT will also continue to require and enforce chains or traction tires on Sam Jackson Park Road and West Burnside as conditions warrant.

Saltzman said that requirement in the last storm significantly lowered the number of abandoned cars blocking traffic on those roads.

Police will issue $160 citations for drivers who ignore the requirement.

Treat said crews will begin working around the clock as the incoming storm hits and will continue that coverage and work until conditions return to normal.

She said Portlanders should expect the commute Thursday evening and Friday morning to be difficult. Officials are once again urging people to avoid travel if possible or to consider using public transportation.

TriMet crews are getting ready for the storm with a goal of keeping buses and trains running. Service will be altered if conditions become unsafe for riders or employees.

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Buses won’t start the day with chains Thursday, but may start using them as things change.

Treat emphasized the importance of knowing the conditions where you are and where you’re going.

City transportation commissioner Dan Saltzman said we don’t know if this winter is an exception to normal weather in the area or the new normal. Because of that, the city is working on plans to handle future winter weather events better.

Saltzman is asking PBOT to complete a “mutual aid agreement” with Seattle after the success of the help Portland received from the Seattle Department of Transportation. Officials said it’s a relationship they plan to continue beyond this year. Treat said it will mean mutual aid in an event that hits Seattle worse than Portland as well.

The proposed city budget for 2017-2018 will reflect new priorities and PBOT will request $2.8 million for storm response. Another possible avenue for storm response is to see if the Portland Water Bureau’s planned purchases can include trucks that could have snow plows attached. PBOT dump trucks already have that equipment.

Full release: PBOT’s requested $2.8 million storm response budget

Saltzman said 300 members of the PBOT crew work around the clock for 7 days during Portland’s last storm and he expressed his gratitude for that.

Mayor Ted Wheeler also spoke briefly about the plans and recognized PBOT for going “beyond the call of duty” working through the unexpected winter weather Portland has seen this year.