West Valley City street crews plow through record snowfallMar 31, 2023 03:02PM ● By Darrell Kirby
A snowplow clears a West Valley City street after a big snowstorm in late February. (Photo courtesy West Valley City Public Works Department)
As the snow piled up this winter, West Valley City’s Public Works Department saw its street snow removal budget melt away.
Frequent snow storms, including one that saw a record snowfall the last week of February, kept city plows and the crews who operate them busier than ever pushing snow off city streets at a pace not seen in at least a decade.
“This has been tough,” said Public Works Director Dan Johnson. “We’ve had so many storms.”
“It’s been hard on our crews,” he added. “I think we’ve done a good job responding this year.”
Johnson said employees who do snow removal split two 12-hour shifts a day, operating 15 trucks. They cover a good portion of West Valley City’s nearly 900 lane miles of streets, or the total miles of all lanes on all thoroughfares in the city.
Johnson said crews plowed an average of about 25,000 miles of pavement a year from 2015 and 2022. So far this year, plows have moved snow off 42,000 lane miles as of mid-March. And that doesn’t include 3500 South, 5600 West, Redwood Road, Bangerter Highway, Mountain View Corridor and other state routes maintained by the Utah Department of Transportation.
Public Works has also blown through the season’s original stockpile of salt to help melt the snow and ice. Trucks will normally spread 3,100 tons of salt during the winter. “This year so far we’ve gone through 4,400 tons of salt,” Johnson said.
The city buys most of its salt from vendors who gather it from the Great Salt Lake.
“We use it, then it washes down and goes back into the Great Salt Lake” to be used again, Johnson said.
Some mineral salt is also purchased from a mine in Sanpete County. “It’s really good for lower temperatures,” Johnson said.
Funds for snow removal are budgeted from West Valley City’s allotment of state gas tax revenues. A winter like this will evaporate that money quickly. “We keep a reserve for events like this,” Johnson said. “We’ll have to use a little bit of that this year to cover the salt and the overtime.”
For the crews who drive the plows during the busy snowstorms, it’s a mixed bag. “Sometimes they’re grateful for the overtime and extra money, but a lot of times it just wears them out,” Johnson said of the 12-hour shifts three to four days in a row. “It’s a good group of men and women that we have that get out there and do that work.”
The busiest streets are plowed first followed by roads near schools and other places that can draw a lot of traffic at times. Subdivisions and cul-de-sacs are next on the itinerary.
Cars parked on the street during plowing operations don’t make the job any easier. A city ordinance prohibits street parking when there is 1 inch or more of accumulated snow.
“It’s very difficult to run a wide plow blade on a narrow road made narrower by cars on both sides,” Johnson said.