FAQ: Snow and ice removal on Washington County roads
A traveler's first line of defense for staying safe in winter weather conditions — including on icy or snowy roads — is to be prepared. For drivers, this may mean using traction devices such as snow chains or snow tires. Strategies for safe winter traveling are equally important.
What is Washington County's role during storms that leave County roads snow or icy? The County's Department of Land Use & Transportation follows a winter operations plan to mobilize employees, equipment and other resources —around the clock, if needed —to minimize risks those road conditions pose to travelers, infrastructure and property.
What does Washington County do to improve conditions on snowy or icy roads?
Road treatments during winter conditions may include:
- Anti-icing: In advance of icy conditions, anti-icing materials may be applied on roads to minimize slippery conditions. Anti-icing materials are sometimes also applied after roads are affected by snow and ice.
- Sanding: When conditions are slippery, sand may be applied to improve traction. Areas typically sanded include intersections, curves, hills and other problem areas.
- Snow plowing: Plows remove much of the accumulated snow from roadways, but there is usually some residual material that remains. This is normal and to be expected. Snow plows usually do not operate at high-volume traffic times to avoid congestion and visibility problems.
Why are some roads snow plowed or sanded while others are not?
To make the best use of the County's limited resources, routes that provide access to critical facilities, emergency services and major corridors have been identified and are considered priority for snow and ice removal. Roads identified as emergency transportation routes usually receive attention first, followed by other arterial and collector roads.
Neighborhood streets are not serviced except in extreme circumstances and only after arterial and collector routes are cleared.
How can a road user find out if a specific road is a priority for anti-icing, sanding or snow plowing?
Can residents or businesses request snow plowing or sanding of a specific road?
- Priority routes are the County's primary focus, as mentioned above.
- Snow plows and sanders are very large pieces of equipment, and narrow local streets lined with cars present a challenge.
- Sanding equipment is designed to disperse material over a wide area and can damage cars and other property when used in close proximity.
To report a hazardous road condition outside of normal business hours, call the countywide nonemergency response number: 503-629-0111.
What if a road is still covered with snow or ice after sanding or plowing?
Even after treatment, compacted snow, ice or both may remain on roads. Drivers are always urged to travel with caution and use appropriate traction devices.
Does the County use road salt to clear roadways of snow and ice?
Like other Oregon road agencies, Washington County has not traditionally used road salt to help melt ice and snow on roadways due to the cost and adverse impact to roads, cars and the environment. The Oregon Department of Transportation recently began experimenting with road salt at a few very specific trouble spots but does not have plans for widespread use at this time. Similarly, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is also testing the use of road salt in a few specific areas.
The County will be watching ODOT and PBOT's experiments closely to see if the application of road salt is a tool we should consider adding to our took kit for helping to clear roads during winter weather conditions. If the County were to decide to move forward with using road salt, we would need to complete a federal environmental application process, construct a salt storage facility and modify our existing equipment. This process could take as long as three years.
Does the County close roads due to hazardous winter driving conditions?
Because winter weather conditions may simultaneously affect all or most of Washington County, specific roads are not usually closed or restricted for snowy or icy conditions alone. However, the County may close or restrict roads blocked by downed trees or power lines on the road and to allow safe emergency response to accidents. Additionally, the County may recommend, or even require, snow chains or tires for travel on specific roads or, in extreme cases, on all roads maintained by the County.
What are the best resources for learning about conditions on a specific road or route?
For state highway conditions, check the Oregon Department of Transportation's TripCheck website or sign up to receive tweets from ODOT for conditions on specific state highways.Tips for driving in winter weather are available from Washington County and ODOT.