Comment of the Day

Readers: Denver Has One Snow Plow, and I've Never Seen It

If you ventured outside on Thanksgiving Eve, everyone had the same question: Where were the snowplows? To answer that question, we reposted an interview we'd done earlier this year with Nancy Kuhn, public-information director for the Department of Public Works.

"The plows typically go out when snow starts to accumulate on the city's main streets," she'd told us after another major storm. "There might be a situation where we decide to drop de-icer on the bridges and overpasses when we get some precipitation but snow isn't accumulating yet — where it's snowing but the streets are just wet and it's likely to freeze overnight. If it's a big snow event, though, we bring in all the drivers and start our twelve-hour shifts."

This past week's snowstorm seemed like a big enough event to our readers, who keep sending in comments. Says Maria:
The sad thing is, I've lived in Colorado most of my life (25+ years) and not once have I ever seen a storm where Denver did a good job of plowing the streets. The storms of 1996, 2003, none of them.

If you drive downtown, you'll see clear bike lanes after a storm while you are driving on ice or walking on iced-over sidewalks. Denver's government has always been too preoccupied with things that distract them from the services local government is supposed to be all about - roads, safety, parks and schools.
Adds Linda:
 I just read your article on Denver’s snowplowing (or lack thereof). I was shocked by street conditions when driving from northwest Denver to South Pearl Street. The side streets were covered in thick coats of ice — no surprise there. But so were some major thoroughfares. For instance, stretches of Logan were in terrible shape. Seventh, which is a “striped street,” was so slick that I could feel my all-wheel car struggle for traction as I went up the hill from Logan to Downing. Get with it, Denver!
Replies Paul: 
Denver doesn't seem to get its streets as clear as it could with its plows, and it certainly doesn't use enough salt or liquid de-icer.

Englewood does a better job with getting its streets cleaner than Denver. South Logan Street from Bates Avenue to Floyd Avenue was mostly clear and had salt/sand down. So driving was no issue; there were some bad spots over there, too, but not as frequent as Denver. Maybe Denver could use some tips when it comes to plowing, because it always seems to do a bad job. (Maybe they need to go learn from a city in the Midwest.)
Responds Jean:
 I am a Colorado native. I live in west Lakewood. I have never seen the streets in such bad condition after a snowstorm. I saw sand trucks the night before the storm. No one is plowing the packed snow or the melted slush! Wow! Get it together, Denver metro!!

That's all.
Suggests Sue:
Having lived up here in Nederland over the past twenty-plus years — and Colorado over forty-plus — it continues to baffle me that Denver metro ignores the side streets! Even given plenty of warning or having plenty of time to swipe with a smaller plow. Up here, typically the wind kicks in and drifts any progress made!

The best plowing we’ve ever had done during these storms is when either the mayor/a trustee/town works employee happened to live in our neighborhood.
Notes Jessica: 
Plows rip up the roads, people... and we have a hard enough time keeping up with maintenance. Plows just make it safe enough to drive with your 4X4. The natives will give you a ride.
Explains Guy:
 For those who have lived here their whole life, snow maintenance is a bit different than in most other snowy places. Here they just move it enough to get by until the sun takes care of it. At sea level, such as in the upper Midwest, they actually try to clear it completely from curb to curb because there is no other choice. It's much colder and the sun isn't as hot or out very often in the winter. The problem is we just had a Midwest- type storm with Midwest temps and cloud cover afterwards combined with Colorado snow maintenance.
Concludes Katie: 
I joke that there’s one snowplow in Denver and I’ve never seen it.

I’m pretty sure Larimer has a stripe down the middle, but you wouldn’t know right now because it’s covered in ice. We’re all driving and walking very carefully crossing the street in the Curtis Park and RiNo neighborhoods. The LEAST the city could have done and can still do is to use deicer up here.

I noticed in your story there was no mention of when they deploy the 36 residential snow plows and if there are any drivers for them. I’m going to guess "never" and "no." The money the city is choosing to save by not deploying the residential plows and paying these drivers is not worth the accidents, stuck cars and falls. My car got stuck twice on Thanksgiving Day.

Imagine being disabled and getting around town in a wheelchair. Now imagine being disabled and trying to get around town when not only are the sidewalks filled with snow and ice because some residents and businesses don’t bother to shovel, but now they can’t use the street, either, because the city is saving resources.

Please ask the tough questions: how much money the city thinks they’re saving by not deploying residential snow plows, how many drivers they actually have for those 36 residential snow plows, when they’re deployed if this wasn’t a big enough event this past week. What did they think of the terrible road conditions during the Thanksgiving holiday...

Those are the answers I’d like to know.
We'll try to get more answers, Katie. In her earlier interview, Kuhn had told us: "We have seventy big plows, which cover the main streets, and we have 36 residential plows — four-by-four pickups with plows that we deploy when we do the residential program. The seventy plows run regularly on the main streets in the larger snow event. We have enough drivers to put out all seventy of them."

As for what qualifies as a main street, Kuhn said: "We like to describe the main streets as most streets with stripes. If you see a street with a stripe down the center, that's what we consider a main street. It's usually a mix of arterial roadways — those larger roads, like Broadway, Lincoln, Alameda — and what we call collector streets, which connect to the arterials. And residential streets are streets without stripes. If you're driving down a street and there's no stripe, that's considered a residential street in our program."

At the moment, though, many city streets are still so covered with snow and ice that you can't see whether they have a stripe.

The mess reminds Denver City Councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt of another major snow event. She writes:
Failure to clear the streets during a May 1983 snowstorm resulted in Mayor Bill McNichols’ failure to make the run-off. The condition of Denver streets following this anticipated late-November snow-pocolypse is more-of-the-same from very lame Michael Hancock.
What do you think of Susan Barnes-Gelt's comment? The current state of snow removal in Denver? Post a comment or share your thoughts at [email protected]