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Running 1,500 Miles of County Roads Major Undertaking

Drivers reminded not to crowd the plow, drive for conditions

Post Date:11/26/2019 1:30 PM

Image of a Carver County snow plow in action 

Nearly everyone has heard the saying that there are two seasons in Minnesota: winter and road construction.

But thanks to the great work of the Carver County public works operators, who run a total of 1,500 miles on County roadways, the roads are clear and safe to travel throughout our state’s “primary” season of winter. So what can drivers do to keep themselves and the operators who clear the road safe?

Michael Legg, the County’s Director of Operations for Public Works, shared two tips.

“First, drivers need to drive for the conditions,” he said. “During times of snow or slippery conditions, extra time should be allowed to drive slower. Even when the road is plowed, it can still have slippery spots.” Legg noted that drivers should especially be aware of valleys, shaded areas, and bridge decks that are prone to have issues, exercising extra caution in these areas.

Second, as most Minnesotans know, don’t crowd the plow, but Legg gave additional insight into why that’s so important. “Plows do not just drive in a straight line like some other vehicles going down the road,” he said. “They may change lanes suddenly or vary speed quickly.” A plow truck performing snow and ice activities is, by law, an emergency vehicle, similar to a police car, fire truck or ambulance, Legg said. “I would venture to guess the public would never pass one of those heading to a call, so we’d ask drivers to give all plow trucks the same respect and courtesy for everyone’s safety.”

Lastly, Legg praised the County staff’s dedication. “They routinely work Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, missing dinners, family time, birthday parties, and celebrations,” he shared. “During particular snowy seasons, operations work as many as 45 days in a row. That makes for a long stretch but one that needs to be done.”

The 16 operators range from junior staff facing their first winter to senior staff with more than 30 years of experience.

All told, 18 trucks cover the County’s plowable roads, with 16 assigned to regular routes and two serving as backups in case of breakdowns. The routes, optimized by the same computer-mapping technology used by the State, ensures efficient plowing operations. Each route run takes around 4 hours, with each route stretching roughly 100 miles long. No road or highway receives higher priority over another—all roads are equal and treated the same, Legg noted.

A route run typically starts at 2 a.m. and takes 8-10 hours, although during major events a shift can last up to 15 hours, Legg said. Of course, that depends on the snow’s timing. Work often begins before the snow starts, and each snow event means applying around 100 tons of deicer to the roadways.

“We pretreat roads and bridges with liquids,” Legg said. “The public may notice white stripes running down the roads and bridges—that is the pretreatment. Treating roads prevents frost issues or limits the bond of the snow and ice from forming.” 

So when drivers encounter winter driving conditions, remember to give that plow extra space, allow extra time, and arrive safely. Before you know it, the other season will be upon us.

Carver County Snow and Ice Policy