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Frequently Asked Questions

Before you look for the answer to your question below, check out the Snow Plowing ProceduresPDF and the Work Plan for Snow and Ice ControlPDF. These documents will be good reference for many of the questions/answers below.

Q: How do you decide what streets are on the 86 miles of ice control routes?

The 86 miles of ice control and primary plow routes are the major arterial streets that make up the backbone of the City transportation system. These streets have the highest volume of traffic and are thoroughfares, main connector streets, Eau Claire Transit bus routes, streets surrounding schools, bridges, major hills, and curves.

Q. Why don’t we plow and salt all the streets in the City, specifically secondary and residential streets?
The City of Eau Claire limits the amount of salt that is applied to the streets in an effort to protect the groundwater, lakes, rivers, and streams. Only the ice control routes are salted – all other streets receive sand to act as an abrasive on hills, intersections, and curves.

Q. When does the City plow residential streets – does it have to snow 3 inches or more?
When snow accumulation reaches 3 inches or more, a full residential plowing operation is initiated on the 195 miles of residential streets. It typically takes 10 to 12 hours to complete a full residential plowing for a 4-inch snowfall. Snow amounts greater than 12 inches can take considerably longer to complete.

Q. What happens if we receive less than 3 inches of snow during a storm?
All ice control routes (86 miles) are plowed and salted during every measurable snow event regardless of the accumulation. Residential streets that are not salted are only plowed when snow accumulations reach a 3-inch level and the snow has ended or has just about concluded. If the residential streets are not plowed, sand is applied at hills, intersections, and curves to act as an abrasive and assist in braking.

Q. Does the City ever plow residential streets when less than 3 inches of snow falls?
Yes. If the City has received several smaller snowfalls over a period of days, and the condition of the residential streets are such that plowing would be beneficial – then a full residential plow operation is initiated. This situation occurred during the week before the Christmas holiday in 2010.

Q. Will the snow plow ever completely clear my residential street down to bare pavement?
No. It is not the goal of the City snow and ice control policy to have all streets cleared down to a bare pavement. Only the 86 miles of primary ice control and plow routes have a “bare pavement” policy.

Q. What can I do about snow plows that block my driveway with snow?
This is an unfortunate side effect of plowing all streets in the City. All snow must be plowed to the curb, and as a result driveways can become blocked with wet, heavy snow from the plowing. It is the property owner’s responsibility to clear snow from the end of the driveway. It is a violation of the City code to blow or push snow back into the street.

Q. Why is my street always plowed last?
The residential plowing plan subdivides each plow area into two (2) subareas. The starting area for each residential plow operation is alternated between the two subareas. This avoids one location from always being the last to be plowed.

Q. Why do paths and bike trails get cleared of snow before many streets?
The removal of snow from the 25 miles of paths and bike trails is performed by personnel from the City Parks Division using smaller equipment than is typically used to plow streets. Paths and bike trails are typically cleaned during regular work hours if possible – and therefore timing of the operations can vary. Paths and bike trails, along with streets, are important parts of the City’s overall transportation network, and many people use the trail network all year.

Q. Why did the truck go by with the plow blade up?
The current truck fleet is equipped with salters/sanders, main plows and wing plows. The salter/sander plow trucks can travel much faster with their blades up. Operators may travel with the plow blade raised for several reasons:
       • The operator may be headed to a specific area, an accident, or was dispatched to
          another incident that needs a quick response.
       • The operators may be going back to the shop for fuel, repairs, or to reload with sand or
          salt. If they took the extra time to travel with the plow blade down, the plow area or
          route to which they were assigned would experience a delay in their service.
       • The operator may be headed to the next assigned location and using a route such as a
          primary ice control route to travel.

Q. Since the plow is already on my residential street sanding – why not just drop the blade and plow
the street at the same time?

The sanding operation consists of one pass down the street to apply abrasive material in spot locations such as intersections, curves, hills, and midblock to assist braking. Plowing of a street takes from 3 to 4 passes by the truck to move the snow to the full width of the street. Plowing the street at the same time sanding occurs would take three to four times longer than the sanding operation. If the street is not plowed full width – a windrow is created a significant
distance from the driveway – causing additional work for the resident to clean the end of their driveway. When the snow plow operator comes back at a later time to widen the street to full width, the driveway is then filled with snow again.

Q. Whose responsibility is it to shovel out a fire hydrant or mailbox?
It is the responsibility of the homeowner to clear snow away from mailboxes so that they are accessible to the mail carrier. The City asks property owners to “Adopt a Hydrant” near their property to assist in making fire hydrants accessible during the winter months. The City has over 3,500 hydrants in the water system and the assistance from property owners helps assure quick response by the fire fighters.

Q. How do I report that a snow plow missed my street?
Call the public works telephone number at (715) 839-4963. 

Q. What is the alternate side parking and winter street parking restrictions?
Alternate side parking is in effect in Eau Claire from November 1 to May 1. For more information on the parking rules please click here.

Q. My question was not answered above. Now what can I do?
Contact us by going to the Contact Us page and sending us your question or call us at (715) 839-4963.

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