The City of Loveland averages 40 inches of snowfall annually and maintains 365 miles of roadway. The City’s present snow fighting policy is to provide maximum service on major arterials and select collector streets that comprise the central roadway network needed to move the majority of the City’s traffic in an orderly and safe manner as well as to provide access for emergency personnel.
Citizens have a part in snow removal as well, residents are required to shovel sidewalks within 24 hours of the storm ending. They need to open up their own driveways as well, after the plow truck passes by, if the windrow is too thick to drive over. Able-bodied residents are strongly encouraged to assist elderly and disabled neighbors in opening up their driveways for them. The City’s volunteer “Snow Squad” provides another possibility for securing assistance.
To provide a higher level of service on all City streets would be a major commitment of resources and funding not justified based on Loveland’s historical climatic weather conditions.
Snow Plowing Approach
We depend heavily on weather forecast data to develop a specific and unique snow fighting strategy for each storm. When storms materialize differently than what was forecast, in-the-moment adjustments are made as best as possible.
Loveland’s approach for maintaining our roadway transportation network during/after snow events is reflective of common practices across Front Range cities, roads are categorized into three winter maintenance priorities: arterials, collectors, and residentials. In continual pursuit of excellence, cities along the Front Range regularly review and compare operations to employ new and better methods.
As noted above, the City has established priorities to make the most efficient use of snow removal resources. The established priorities are as follows:
The backbone of our roadway snow removal fleet consists of 16 large trucks equipped with plows and chemical applicators [three liquid and 13 granular]. Also in the roadway snow removal fleet are four large pickup trucks with plows, two front-wheel loaders, and one road grader. Available for additional support, as described in #8 below, are 11 trash-truck plows. Our fleet is operated by personnel from our Streets Maintenance, Stormwater Maintenance, Solid Waste and Traffic Operations teams. Because departmental staffing resources do not fulfill operational needs, Public Works staff is supplemented by Water and Power personnel. Also on the job are fleet support personnel who work diligently to keep every piece of equipment up and running 24/7 to maximize City resources. These dedicated employees work around the clock no matter what day of the year or time of day to fulfill this critical function.
Priority 1 streets are the four lane arterial streets which carry the most traffic, plus important two lane thoroughfares. Examples include 14th Street SW, Taft Avenue, and US WY 287.
Most of our resources (drivers, snowplows and deicing chemicals) are first devoted to making our arterial roads as safe as possible since they carry the greatest number of travelers driving at the highest speeds. Arterials are repeatedly plowed and de-iced with chemicals until we have mostly bare pavement across all travel lanes. Only then do we move onto collector snow removal routes.
Priority 2 streets are heavily-used two lane collector streets, school bus routes and streets which serve commercial/industrial zones. (Some residential streets are identified as collector streets).
Once Priority 1 roadways are in good shape, snowplow trucks move on to plowing the loose snow from collector roads, while applying limited de-icing chemicals at the intersections. These plowed collector roads often remain snow-packed but are very drivable. This reduced level of maintenance on collector streets is because they carry far fewer vehicles, and travel speeds are much slower. It would require significant resources (i.e., lots of deicing chemicals and repeat plowing) to break through the snow-pack and bring the collector streets to bare pavement quickly. This considerable expense and effort currently are not budgeted, and would be hard to justify.
Priority 3 streets include all the remaining streets/residential areas within the city.
Per Front Range cities’ common practice, we do not plow residential streets except for heavy snowfalls (i.e., typically six inches or more). Most of our snow events land in the two to five inch range, which two-wheel drive cars can easily manage. Unlike more northerly and easterly Snow Belt cities, we often experience ample sunshine and warmer days on the heels of our snow storms, which causes the remaining road snow to melt off.
Trash-Truck Plows: When we do receive six inches or more of snowfall, we deploy 11 trash-truck plows to plow open the center third area of residential streets. Creating this pathway allows residents who might otherwise be trapped in their neighborhoods to gain full access to the primary street network for travel to work, school, grocery/retail stores, etc. A trade-off that comes with plowing residential streets is the unavoidable “windrow” of snow left behind - especially with our heavier and wetter snowfalls. This means residents might have to open up their own driveways after the plow truck passes by, if the windrow is too thick to drive over. Able-bodied residents are strongly encouraged to assist elderly and disabled neighbors in opening up their driveways for them. The City’s volunteer “Snow Squad” provides another possibility for securing assistance.
Downtown snow removal is focused on the commercial core and requires a separate, specialty approach. Snow must have stopped and Priority One, Two and Three street work must be completed in order for crews to be diverted to downtown cleanup. The first step is to clear snow from the public parking lots, then haul the snow piles away. The second step involves pushing and pulling all the snow from the sidewalks, gutters and parking areas into large windrows down the center of the streets. This allows a large snow blower to efficiently blow the windrowed snow into dump trucks to be hauled away. The boundaries of the downtown cleanup area are formed by 1st, 7th, Garfield and Washington. The exceptions within this bounded area include short residential sections of East 2nd Street, Garfield between 1st and 3rd, Jefferson between 1st and 3rd, and East 3rd between Jefferson and Washington. We strive to complete the cleanup process in one night. However, the more erratic the storm and the more snow, the more complex and lengthy the downtown snow removal process. These cleanups are performed during the night shift when there are fewer people out and about, and less volume of parked cars thereby increasing operational safety.
City Owned Sidewalks
Public Works and other City Departments work together to remove snow from parks and trails, sidewalks around City facilities and parking lots, bridges and underpasses. During a normal snow event, crews remove snow as usual. The Chilson Center will also be plowed and shoveled for weekend hours as needed.
Residents are responsible for clearing all snow from their sidewalks and driveways within 24 hours after a snow fall ceases, per the City of Loveland Municipal Code, Chapter 12.24. When residents fail to do this, school children and pedestrians are forced to walk on either snow-packed and icy sidewalks, or out in the street itself. Either scenario can lead to serious injury. The owner or occupant shall be liable for any injuries and property damage incurred by any person as a result of the failure of such owner or occupant to comply. (Ord. 3514 § 1, 1988: prior code § 20.34)
- When shoveling your walk, please pile the snow on your lawn, not in the street. Piling or blowing snow into a public right-of-way is disallowed by Municipal Code because it can present a potential traffic hazard, and can also block the flow of drainage.
- If your sidewalk is still icy after being shoveled, apply a de-icing agent available for purchase at most grocery, discount and hardware stores.
- If city snowplows bury curb-attached sidewalks, on Priority 1 routes, during street snow removal efforts, crews will remove the snow at no expense to the affected resident. Crews will not be deployed for sidewalk clearing until the storm has ended.
- To report an un-shoveled sidewalk, please call the Police Department at 667-2151, with the specific address. After providing ample notice to the offending residence, the City may levy both a removal fee and a fine if it must clear such a walk.
Each year the City has over 100 applicants in need of someone to shovel their sidewalks after significant snowfalls. These residents are physically unable to shovel and cannot afford to hire a service.
The City’s Snow Squad program assists these residents by matching them with a volunteer for the season. Volunteers will shovel the sidewalks and a path to the door for any snowfall of 2 inches or more.
With minimal time commitment (average of 4 hours for the season), this can be a rewarding activity for you and/or your family!
Can’t commit to a resident for the full season?
We’re also in need of backup volunteers to fill in when our regular volunteers are out of town.
If you are interested in volunteering for this program, please call the Snow Squad line:
- Get to know your neighbors - keep a list of phone numbers on hand for emergencies.
- Check on elderly and/or disabled neighbors during major snow storms to be sure they do not need help.
- Always clear your sidewalk of snow as soon as possible - it is difficult for pedestrians to walk down sidewalks full of snow and ice but it is nearly impossible for wheelchairs.
- Go the extra step to make sure the sidewalk on your block is clear of snow so it can be accessible to all.
- Check out the resources available in your neighborhood - churches and other service organizations often have volunteers available to help those in need.
Anti-icing versus Deicing
Applying chemicals before snow begins freezing to the pavement is called “anti-icing”. Anti-icing is important because it requires far less resources (chemicals, snowplow trucks, drivers, etc.) to achieve the goal of having bare pavement on our Priority One routes. Making the call on when to anti-ice and what volumes of chemical to apply requires an analysis of the forecast for weather and pavement temps, as well as the application rate charts. Anti-icing must be used thoughtfully as it can temporarily cause slippery conditions at the storm’s initial onset. If the forecast for snow does not materialize, the slippery conditions present a hazard that we try to avoid for the safety of the traveling public and our emergency responders. When a road-freezing event is eminent, anti-icing crews apply anti-icers to our Priority One roads to prevent or delay the bonding of snow/ice to the pavement. A weakened bond means our snowplows can scrape off more snow/ice with each pass, so less chemical is needed overall. By contrast, if we routinely wait to apply the chemical until after snow/ice has already started to freeze tight to the pavement, then a lot more is needed to finally penetrate through the ice bond to loosen it enough so that our plows can begin to slowly carve away more snow/ice. This deicing and plowing cycle must be repeated over and over until we finally achieve bare pavement. While proper anti-icing is a proactive and preferred approach, de-icing will always prove to be necessary during the coldest winter months for effective storm management. Below certain pavement temperatures, no chemical or material is effective against snow bonding to pavement.
The City of Loveland uses two different types of ice-melting chemicals for winter road safety – one is a liquid product called Meltdown Apex and the other is a granular product called Ice Slicer. Both of these products are used for anti-icing and de-icing operations.
Meltdown Apex is a water-based brine comprised of magnesium chloride [MgCl-2] treated with additives. These additives reduce the product’s corrosiveness by 72% when compared to straight magnesium chloride brine. Apex also melts ice across a wider and lower range of pavement temperatures than other commonly used liquid deicers. It is these two qualities that make Apex a much better environmental choice for Loveland when compared to other commonly used liquid road de-icing products.
Ice Slicer is our granular de-icing product. It is often mistaken for sand because it is naturally reddish-colored and is quite visible against a snow-covered road surface. As a complex chloride [92-98% magnesium, sodium and potassium chlorides], Ice Slicer is a “hotter” ice melter than regular white salt. Traditional rock salt stops melting ice at pavement temperatures of 17 degrees F; Ice Slicer works at pavement temperatures near 0 degrees F. Additionally, Ice Slicer has tested out to be 70% less corrosive than regular white salt using the ASTM B-117 lab testing protocol. It is these two qualities that make Ice Slicer a much better environmental choice for Loveland when compared to the more commonly used road salt used by other road-maintenance agencies.
Safety and consequences ,not cost, are our top considerations when choosing what chemical deicers to use. Products used by the City are:
- less harmful to our natural environment (waterways, vegetation, air quality, humans, wildlife)
- less harmful to our built environment (vehicles, bridges, concrete structures, pavements)
- more effective and efficient at melting snow and ice across a broader range of pavement temperatures.