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Iowa City roads to be clear after this weekend

BY GRACE PATERAS | FEBRUARY 06, 2015 5:00 AM

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Since the snowstorm early Sunday morning, Iowa City has been covered in a thick layer of snow. It may be pretty to look at, but the lack of clear streets has some residents complaining.

A light rain before the storm hit late on Jan. 31 caused the snowfall to stick and become a heavy, wet snow solution, said Jon Resler, the Iowa City streets superintendent. When cars drive on the slush, it gets compacted onto the streets, and plow blades aren’t sharp enough to lift it, he said.

“We can’t tell people to not drive when it’s snowing,” Resler said. “[That’s why] people think we’re not out and about, but we are.”

On Monday, there were 20 reported weather-related accidents, said Iowa City police Sgt. Scott Gaarde, and on Tuesday, there were 29 accidents.

By comparison, the Iowa City police reported 209 accidents in the month of January.

Iowa City streets are being covered 24/7 by 12 multipurpose trucks. The City Public Works stocks an extra truck in case one has a malfunction such as flat tires, low oil pressure, and problems with the salt-spreading equipment.

The multipurpose trucks are designed to make the most of taxpayers’ dollars, Resler said. They become dump trucks in warmer months, and plow and salt trucks in the winter months.

There are 24 staff members dedicated to winter maintenance. Last weekend, three of them were initially on duty salting and sanding, and the department called in others to help once the storm worsened.

“[Until the snow stopped], we had someone always plowing since that moment it started to snow except for one break,” Resler said. “During a storm, there’s always someone on the routes.”

Currently, salt is working its way to turn ice and snow into slush on Iowa City roads. Workers are hesitant to plow too soon, because the salt is not done melting yet and they don’t want to waste money spent on materials.

Shawn Fitzpatrick, a supervisor at UI Landscape Services, said the university has 69 miles of sidewalk to cover. Workers shovel and salt around the 80 buildings on the main campus, as well as the Oakdale campus.

They also plow some streets, such as the ones near the UI Hospitals and Clinics.

However, they do not include most campus parking lots.

Because of snow and wind complications, campus workers are working to clear the sidewalks and designated streets.

“Even when we get routes cleared initially from the snowfall, there’s always more work to be done,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s drifting and snow blow, and we follow up with clearing curb cutouts, handicap areas, and bike racks.”

Resler anticipates the streets to be clear next week, once the warmer weather and salt combine to melt.

“It’s a matter of being patient,” Resler said. “With 30 degrees weather [over the weekend], we should have bare pavement.”


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