Routt County commissioners hear about snow plowing from constituents
January 24, 2017
Steamboat Springs — The Routt County Board of Commissioners heard it from both ends of the county Tuesday, as a half a dozen residents showed up to both vent and compliment the Road and Bridge Department's efforts to keep rural roads clear of snow and ice during a month that has challenged motorists. But mostly, they vented.
Julie Shook, a courier for Federal Express who drives a route that takes in North Routt and the lower Elk River Valley, told the commissioners that the snowfall in the Steamboat Lake area during the first half of January was extreme. She said the routine, once-per-day snow plow service wasn't sufficient, and she urged the county to make a plan specifically for epic snow events.
"For the most part, I'm very pleased with the plowing that takes place between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m., but on Jan. 4, not so much," Shook said. "I had some people on the backside of (Steamboat) lake who measured 54 inches of snow. Then the wind blew it in, and it snowed an additional 15 inches after the plow came through. Routt County Road 129 ( Elk River Road) was a single-lane road with drifts."
Shook spoke during a regularly scheduled public comment period that left no time in the Tuesday agenda for the county commissioners to respond indepth.
Commission Chairman Tim Corrigan asked Road and Bridge Director Janet Hruby to research potential solutions along with the costs and impacts they would pose for her department. He said the next step would be a scheduled work session on the subject.
Nancy Mucklow, who lives between Steamboat and Clark on Routt County Road 56, said the current county snowplowing schedule doesn't do justice to the number of North Routt residents who commute on C.R. 129.
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"I'm here to represent the thousands of us who live in North Routt and drive 129 every day and have only one way in and one way out," Mucklow said. "I respectfully suggest the main artery serving thousands of residents deserve more attention."
Mucklow said the daily schedule of plowing once per day isn't sufficient during big storms, with ice fishermen, snowmobile rigs and school buses trying to get as far north as Steamboat Lake and Columbine. She said often, by afternoon, the snow that falls after the plows do their work turns to slush on the asphalt road. And by morning that slush has turned to ice.
The frozen slush forms "ruts, and no one can tell where the centerline is, and even if you could, you can't stay in them due to the ice," she said.
Stagecoach residents ask for more scoria
Tony Stich, a resident of unincorporated Stagecoach in South Routt, told the commissioners that after two automobile collisions on Routt County Road 16, there is ample evidence Road and Bridge needs to resume dispatching a truck to spread the porous volcanic rock, known as scoria, on the roadway after its surface turns icy.
"In my opinion, the lack of scoria has contributed to the accidents," Stich said. "I would encourage any member of the board to travel Country Road 16 when it's snowing or at dusk when the light is flat. County Road 16 is the busiest non-paved road in the county with no guardrails," and four stretches where, "if you are distracted for a second, you place yourself in immediate peril."
However, Stich, who estimates he has traveled that section of road 15,000 times since 2001, acknowledged that excessive speed and people driving on worn tires are also part of the problem on the road.
"Snow and ice are present from around December to April," Stich said. “The road chatter and potholes intensify the chance for skids on most any portion of the road and especially the curves, with virtually no scoria down."
Hruby told the Board of Commissioners she thinks her department needs to do more to publicize its snow-removal efforts.
"A big piece of this conversation is getting information out, so people know when we're out there," she said.