Rexburg city workers shed insight into road maintenance

The city of Rexburg owns four snow graters that it uses to plow the streets. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Rexburg receives an average of 55 inches of snow per year. With all that snow, there needs to be a way to remove it.

Keith Davidson, Rexburg’s public work director, stands as the leader to make sure Rexburg’s streets get plowed after a snowstorm.

One aspect of keeping the roads clear begins with knowing when storms will occur. The Street Department monitors weather forecasts from multiple sources to try and predict when these storms happen.

When a storm is predicted to come, the Street Department sprays a salt solution on all major roads in the city before the storm is forecasted to arrive to assist in melting the snow and ice before it is able to freeze to the road.

Every night that a storm is supposed to arrive, Davidson receives a call at about 11 p.m. on whether there’s enough snow to plow. In order to plow the streets, there has to be at least two inches. If that requirement is met, Davidson sends out the city’s five graters to begin clearing the streets.

If snow continues to fall through the night, there will be another check at about 4:30 a.m. examining the safety of the roads.

“If there’s enough accumulation, then sometimes what we’ll do is try to come in and cut out kind of the main roads, palm to the edge trying to open up some areas and then we’ll come in that following night,” Davidson said.

Davidson and his team at the Street Department avoid plowing during the day because being out in traffic is difficult and hazardous.

Such techniques help decrease the number of times the Street Department has to plow the entire city, since doing so costs at least $25,000.

“That’s all additional cost that comes in because of the decision to get out there and plow,” said Matt Nielsen, the chief financial officer for Rexburg.

Running into cars

Rexburg city ordinance prohibits parking on streets within city limits from 2-7 a.m. between December 15th and March 1st. However, those plowing the streets still run into cars.

“Vehicles on the street hamper that effort and also cause safety concerns,” Davidson said. “Our drivers who are plowing the streets have to kind of swerve around those vehicles when they’re plowing.”

Cars on the street add time and tediousness to the snow removal process. Even when cars can drive over the snow afterward, the packed-down snow will freeze down to the road, making the snow harder to remove from the streets.

Two parking enforcement officers from the Rexburg Police Department patrol the streets, making sure the city ordinance is implemented. If a snowstorm is forecasted to arrive and cars are parked on the street, the officers will call a towing company to begin a “pick up and drop” policy.

Gary Hagen, assistant chief of the Rexburg Police Department, said the tow truck will pick the car up and tow it around the corner. The police will then issue a citation including the tow amount, which is approximately $50.

However, towing cars only happens when the roads need to be plowed ahead of a snowstorm.

Financing snow removal

The budget for snow removal comes from the city’s budget for the Street Department. The Street Department budget is divided among a variety of street maintenance projects.

“The more money I spend on plowing and snow removal, the less money I have for street maintenance,” Davidson said. “There’s kind of a balance there that we have to try and achieve.”

One of the main street maintenance tasks the street department is tackling is pothole repair. Davidson said the pothole repairs are temporary fixes in the wintertime until summertime when the team can repair things in a better manner. Davidson said if the city were to plow more frequently, the city would have less money to fix potholes now and later in the year.

Davidson said his goal in clearing the streets is a simple one.

“We want to get the snow off in as efficient, timely manner as possible, and to keep our roads as clear as we can,” Davidson said.

You can learn more about the city’s winter parking policies here.