Ada County Highway District

ACHD's Road Wizard Sunday, January 08, 2017 ACHD's Road Wizard

ACHD plows major residential streets in response to 30-year storm event; the reason ice rings form around manholes; ACHD loath to consider landscaped media on Parkcenter Boulevard for simply looks

The Road Wizard Replies

Dear Road Wizard: The December 27 Idaho Statesman article about ACHD's low priority for snow removal on residential streets begged the obvious question: After ACHD's 37 snow plows eventually get finished clearing major arterials, bridges, on-ramps, and school zones, where do they go? Do they then address neglected residential streets, or do they just return to the garage? At some point, after high-priority areas are treated, cleared and completed, don't medium- and lower-priority streets get addressed? Or are they (and ACHD tax-paying residents) left, as we say in the South, to pray for melting and wait for spring?


Road Wizard:

After this letter came in, we had another huge heap of snow, so ACHD started right at the top of the priority list again.

With 15 inches of snow on the ground, ACHD did plow some residential roads because for many people, the snow depth left them unable to drive their streets. Reader "June" wrote that residents were stranded in neighborhoods south of the Boise Depot. She watched mail and paper carriers do their best to serve customers, but the paper didn't appear for two days.

Other than during these types of record-breaking conditions, ACHD doesn't typically plow residential roads because this can cause other problems. The plowed snow is forced to the side of the road, which can block driveways and side streets, leaving people to shovel through heavy snow piles in order to travel.

There is also the added issue of trying to avoid blocking storm drains with plowed snow. As the weather warms, the melting snow may not be able to reach the drains, creating icy conditions on the roadway as the water refreezes at night.

ACHD was expecting to have to return to plowed areas to move the resulting snow berms so drivers and water could get through. Private snow removal crews were also contracted by ACHD to help handle this massive snow chore.

Dear Road Wizard: With the recent snow, I have been reminded of the way ice builds up around the edges of manhole covers. I know why the snow melts off the cover, but what causes the (sometimes major) buildup around it?


Road Wizard:

Sewer access points in particular can be warm enough (yuck) to melt snow on top of the manhole lids. The water then refreezes as it moves away from the lid.

This creates a pothole effect, and the icy circles are difficult to plow away. This is rare in the Treasure Valley because temperatures don't usually stay cold for so long, and ice melts before creating problems.

Dear Road Wizard: Will ACHD ever consider a median island (maybe even with trees planted) between River Run Drive and Pennsylvania Street on Parkcenter Boulevard? I know that kind of stuff is probably expensive, but that area always seemed like it was missing something when compared to the rest of Parkcenter.


Road Wizard:

Parkcenter was originally constructed with landscaped median islands to beautify the road, and the City of Boise handles the foliage.

Generally, ACHD installs islands later if they provide a safety benefit to the traveling public, such as restricting turns that are considered too risky.

A landscaped island on this part of Parkcenter would be just for looks, which goes beyond the purview of ACHD's duties. It's something Boise leaders would have to consider - the islands are indeed expensive to construct and maintain.

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