Portland Strengthens Winter Storm Response Plan

Citing lessons learned from last year’s record winter, Mayor Ted Wheeler and Transportation Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced new steps the City of Portland is taking to be ready for this coming winter. Joined by officials for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Saltzman also reminded Portlanders of what they can do to make sure they are prepared for winter travel.

Some of the most severe in decades, last year’s winter storms caused significant disruptions to the City’s transportation system, led to numerous school cancellations and had a negative impact on residents and the local economy. At the direction of Commissioner Saltzman, PBOT developed a new set of procedures and policies based on lessons learned during last winter. The goals outlined today are to improve the City’s winter storm response and better help Portlanders get from place to place safely during and after winter storms. 

"We learned a lot of lessons last year, and we are doing everything we can to keep our roads usable and keep people safe during inclement weather this year," Mayor Wheeler said. "I’d also like to focus on a second set of lessons we learned last winter. And that is that most of us are unprepared for severe winter weather. Everyone who has a car should have snow chains in your trunk, so you will have them in an emergency. Know how to avoid driving entirely, by planning to telecommute or take public transit in severe weather."

“We understand full well the expectations the public has for service during extreme winter events and the impact these events have on their lives and livelihoods,” Commissioner Saltzman said. “We have learned a great deal from the snow, ice and landslides of 2016-2017. We’ve stepped up our response and our coordination with other agencies. And we expect the public to prepare themselves to do their part to help us get through this winter together.”

Approximately 1,750 lane miles of Portland’s streets are on the City’s anti-icing and plow routes. PBOT officials noted that their goal for plowing these streets was one lane clear and passable in each direction as soon as possible after a storm event. Passable is defined as drivable for a front-wheel drive vehicle or a vehicle with traction devices.

Among key steps the City will take this winter are:

Expanded use of road salt. Last winter, PBOT piloted the use of road salt, first with the City of Seattle's supply and later with 100 tons bought by PBOT. Based on the success of this pilot, the bureau has purchased new supplies of salt and formulated a Winter Weather Salt Plan to guide its use as a snow and ice fighting tool. PBOT now has 300 tons on hand, and storage capacity for up to 1,300 tons.

  • New equipment and more drivers. With money from the City’s General Fund, the City has purchased snowplow blades to be installed on PBOT and Water Bureau trucks. In addition, Water Bureau personnel have been cross-trained to drive snowplows and will be able to assist regular PBOT plow drivers.
  • Agreements with contractors. To further boost snow fighting capacity, the City has agreements with 10 private contractors for snow removal services.
  • Chain requirements. In response to multiple cars being abandoned on key travel and emergency routes, the City will again require chains or other traction devices on West Burnside and Sam Jackson Park Road which dramatically reduced the number of abandoned cars after being implemented early this year.
  • Helping schools and businesses with expanded anti-icing. During the 2016-17 winter season, the City added the Central Business District to its anti-icing routes. It also began to treat high priority areas identified by the City’s local school districts. PBOT will continue this expanded service this winter.


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