(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Colorado Springs snow plow drivers cover more than 600 lane miles of roadway in the city, and as far as square miles, Colorado Springs is the largest municipality in Colorado with over 200 square miles. In comparison, the Denver Metro Area is around 155 square miles.
“As that infrastructure grows, it’s more and more that we have to take care of. Mayor Suthers and this Administration have been fantastic about getting us more resources that we need to cover those roadways. We try to prioritize our roadways as best we can,” said Corey Farkas, Public Works Operations and Maintenance Division Manager for the City of Colorado Springs.
Farkas talked about the Colorado Springs Snow Plan and how that helps the City determine which routes will be primary, or the first to be cleared, and secondary. The plan can change year over year as the city expands and grows. The vast amount of roadways that the Public Works Department has to cover has to be prioritized to ensure movement capabilities.
Farkas said, “Those are the large arterials; Woodmen, Academy, Union, those types of roads are going to be our primaries. Our secondary roadways are going to be in and around neighborhoods, but they’re going to be the major roads within those neighborhoods, designed to get folks to the arterials.”
Farkas noted that most of the schools in Colorado Springs are on secondary roadways, which means those roads can not be cleared until the primaries are complete. To see what priority the roads receive, check out the Colorado Springs snow plow information page and look at the snow plow routes.
“During an active snowstorm, depending on what Mother Nature’s throwing at us, we always say that we can’t beat Mother Nature and if she’s snowing at an inch of snow an hour, we simply cannot keep up with the resources that we have and we have to actually wait, continue to do our job until she pulls back. That’s when we start to make some ground,” Farkas said.
The priority during an active snowstorm, Farkas said, is to maintain one clear lane on a road like Academy Boulevard. Plow drivers will plow essentially in circles, over lanes that had been plowed already but got covered in snow while the driver continued on a loop. The process is akin to a triage approach of what roads must be cleared first.
Plowing the roadways seems to be a thankless job too often, and the personnel that helps to clear the roads, oftentimes work long hours and take pride in the job they do.
“More often than not, our folks are called in on 12-hour shifts. It’s Murphy’s Law that these storms usually come in on the weekends, including holidays. Our operators are working and they take pride in what they do. They absolutely love doing a great job for their community and the city and they do their best out there,” Farkas shared.
The operators have to accommodate Mother Nature, Farkas said. Many times they have to find ways of dealing with the demanding schedules and the impacts on their families.
“I appreciate each and every one of those folks that are out there plowing those roadways, and they do a really great job,” Farkas said.
Inviting the public to show their appreciation, Farkas implored the public to be safe around plows.
Farkas said, “Try not to pass the plows. We understand that people are trying to get to whatever destination, maybe they’re late, whatever the case may be, it’s just really dangerous for folks to try to pass a plow, especially if we’re plowing in tandem which means there’s more than one plow operating on a particular roadway.”
Anywhere from two to four plows wide could be plowing in tandem at a time, usually in the overnight hours, Farkas said.
“When folks try to, we call it thread the needle, and go in between plows it’s really dangerous. These folks are in a really big piece of equipment, there’s a plow on the front of it, they’re throwing snow, and they’re not just driving this, they’re actually operating a piece of equipment. There’s the driving piece, but they’re also trying to work the plow and the sander,” Farkas said.
Farkas also gave the advice that “if you don’t have to leave your house, don’t.” The higher and slower traffic is, can impact the ability of plows to clear the roads in a timely manner.