City of Missoula to bolster snow plowing efforts on residential streets

The Missoula City Council approved several new employees and truck-mounted plows during this year’s budget cycle to address complaints about snow building up on residential streets. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

Calling it a work in progress, the city’s Street Maintenance Division plans to deploy new resources allocated by the City Council to make headway in plowing residential streets soon after it snows.

Brian Hensel, deputy director of Public Works, said plowing of the city’s priority streets will remain similar to years past. But efforts to address the buildup of ice and snow on residential streets will receive a new push, thanks in part to new positions and resources.

“These are the streets right in the neighborhoods that don’t have much traffic and usually only serve the folks that live there,” Hensel said Wednesday. “During the three days to two weeks that our main snow crews were out doing priority work, those neighborhood streets were being driven on and compacted. We’re all painfully aware of the ruts that can occur.”

Snow plowing and housing rose to the top of a community survey conducted last year as issues needing the most attention by the city. The Missoula City Council approved several new employees and truck-mounted plows during this year’s budget cycle.

The intent was to address complaints about snow building up on residential streets.

“We received four additional employees and we bought three pick-up mounted plows,” said Hensel. “We’re going to be able to deploy five personnel within those neighborhoods to try and accomplish a higher level of service within those streets.”

Hensel said the residential streets would be plowed between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. after a snow event. During those hours, neighborhoods would likely have fewer cars parked on the street.

“We’re hoping that when we get into those residential areas, a majority of folks will have taken vehicles that would normally be parked on the street to work with them,” said Hensel. “The absence of as many on-street parked vehicles will help us accomplish that. We can get all the way to the curbs.”

The length of the storm and amount of snow will play as factors in how quickly city crews can plow. Hensel said the residential plow drivers would also experiment this year in how to complete the work as quickly and as equitably as possible.

“We have five guys, and there’s approximately 135 miles of these neighborhood streets,” Hensel said. “We’re going to do our best to improve our level of service, but we may not be able to meet everyone’s expectations. It’ll be a learning process for us as well as the public.”

Hensel said plowing on the city’s designated priority routes will remain similar to years past. It will include 12 crew members on both the day and night shifts, and four working the swing shift. The four employees designated to standby on weekends will be increased to six.

Priority routes have rarely been a concern among most residents, though some have complained about the perceived lack of plowing on residential streets.

“We do not have enough new resources to hit every residential street on the first day of snow,” said council member Gwen Jones. “But it’s going to be a process and it’s going to be much better than before.”