During snowstorms, some folks may have the inclination to call their local municipal offices and ask: When are you going to plow my street?
Of course, that depends on when a plow is able to reach a certain area, which often can be anyone’s guess.
But the Mt. Lebanon Public Works department has what director Rudy Sukal believes is an effective plan to ensure that the municipality’s approximately 227 lane miles’ worth of public streets are addressed as soon as possible.
During the Mt. Lebanon Commission’s December discussion session, Sukal outlined his department’s winter maintenance procedures, which incorporate nine trucks that spread road salt and/or plow, depending on the type and amount of accumulation.
Each has an assigned route, with three larger vehicles handling main roads and six four-wheel-drive trucks primarily servicing residential streets.
Despite some perception to the contrary, Sukal said the department’s ability to tackle winter weather has improved.
“Years ago, we had eight trucks. We had only two trucks on the main roads, and the routes were a little longer for the side streets,” he said. “At one point in time, we didn’t provide 24-hour service. We would actually stop servicing between midnight and 4 a.m. With the current service level in the budget, we were funded to provide 24/7 coverage.”
Response time depends on a variety of factors. For example, a dusting of an inch or so of snow that does not require plowing means that “our crews can complete the whole municipality in under four hours,” Sukal told commissioners.
“If we have to plow, then obviously that time frame goes up,” he explained. “We have to go in each direction at least twice, typically three or four times, so you can increase the time frame that it takes to get through the entire municipality.
“And if it continues to snow, our trucks stay out there. But as the roads are covered behind them and they get through that four-hour period, they have to start all over again.”
Sukal said that deviating from the assigned routes results in taking longer to complete them, but trucks can be diverted when police report emergency circumstances.
The public works department closely monitors weather forecasts and acts accordingly, municipal manager Keith McGill said.
“We will try to be proactive in potentially sending a portion of the crew home for the day, anticipating that they’ll get called out for a second-shift response, and holding a portion of the crew over to begin addressing snow and ice control once the event begins,” he explained.
Part of the reason is for the safety of crew members.
“If they go home, they’re trying to fight the same traffic, and we’re putting them at risk trying to get back,” Sukal said.
McGill pointed out circumstances that are beyond the department’s control.
“Anytime we get a rain that then turns to ice and then switches over to snow, that’s a completely different thing in terms of how it impacts our response,” he told the commissioners. “Our brick streets will ice over quicker than an asphalt or a concrete street, so we try to be proactive in making sure that we’re getting to those in a timely manner.”
More information about Mt. Lebanon’s winter maintenance is available at www.mtlebanon.org/3451/Snow-Ice, including a question-and-answer summary.
“These are all questions that we have heard, I’ll say, on a consistent basis when we have a snowfall event,” McGill said.