Caltrans: 237 employees ready for Tahoe-Truckee area snow removal | SierraSun.com

Caltrans: 237 employees ready for Tahoe-Truckee area snow removal

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

This Caltrans snowblower is among several pieces of snow removal equipment the state uses to plow highways and I-80 near Truckee and Lake Tahoe.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — With long-range forecasts calling for a wetter-than-normal winter for central California, Caltrans is not only ready for such a season, but looking forward to it.

"We've been drinking the same Kool-Aid that everyone else has with the prediction of El Niño," said Stan Richins, the Sutter-Sierra region manager for Caltrans. "We're hoping that we're going to have just a great winter with normal or above-normal snowfall. We're geared up for that."

In District 3, which includes roadways in Northern Sierra counties, staffing is at 576 employees, which includes seasonal workers, said Steve Nelson, Caltrans District 3 public information officer.

Of that, 185 employees are assigned to the Interstate 80 corridor from Auburn to the Nevada state line, while highways 28, 89 and 267 have a combined 52 employees, he said.

As for snow removal equipment, I-80 has 145 machines assigned to it among the four maintenance stations that service the area — Truckee East/West, Kingvale, Whitmore and Auburn, Nelson said.

On average, roughly $4.7 million of commerce traverses I-80 at Donner Summit every hour, according to Caltrans, making it a high priority route.

Recommended Stories For You

Closer to Lake Tahoe, highways 28, 89 and 267 are also a "high priority" for Caltrans to keep clear and open, Richins said.

"They are high volume routes," he said. "We need to keep them open and clear, so that people can get over here to do their business and have their entertainment. … We surely don't want to be the cause of any economic downturn because we weren't able to keep up with winter demands."

The Tahoe City maintenance station, which services a portion of Highway 89 and all of Highway 28, has 19 pieces of equipment ready, Nelson said. Meanwhile, the Truckee North/South station, which services all of Highway 267 and a portion of 89, has 17 machines.

'We have the resources'

As for Placer County and the town of Truckee, they, too, are equipped to keep local roadways clear of snow this winter.

Within Placer County, there are 10 Tahoe-based full-time employees dedicated to area snow removal, with a fleet of seven snow blowers, 10 motor graders, and four plow/sanders, said Kevin Taber, engineering manager for the county's road maintenance division.

"With that said, we have personnel and equipment throughout the county ready to assist wherever help is needed," he said. "Placer County is unique in that (it) range(s) from sea level to snow level. … Mother Nature often dictates our course of action, so if Tahoe is hit particularly hard, we have the resources available to assist."

Meanwhile, the town of Truckee has 11 regular full-time equipment operators and 18 winter seasonal operators, overseen by senior street maintenance workers and supervisors, according to the town.

Crew shifts are staggered to accommodate continuous coverage, with all department personnel available for snow and ice control operations as conditions warrant.

The town is divided into four service areas — main arterials/school bus routes, residential streets, town maintained parking, maintained trails and sidewalks — each with varying snow removal methods to meet needs.

"The primary goal of the town of Truckee's snow removal plan is to provide for the safe and orderly movement of emergency equipment, vehicle traffic and pedestrians throughout the community during winter months," according to the town.

Predictions and preparedness

Recent forecasts continue to predict this year's El Niño, among the strongest on record, will bring the chance of above normal precipitation for central and southern California.

Helping Caltrans District 3 handle whatever Mother Nature doles out this winter is a $66.1 million maintenance budget, which includes snow removal, for fiscal year 2015-16, Nelson said.

"This is based on looking at the past four years and can be adjusted depending on needs," he elaborated. "Safety is Caltrans' top priority, and the needs of the highways in the Sierra will be met."

According to the National Weather Service on Tuesday, a winter storm capable of bringing one to three feet of snow above 7,000 feet and one to two feet of snow at lake level is expected to move into the Lake Tahoe basin Wednesday evening, lingering into Friday morning.

"Snowfall rates will exceed plowing capabilities at times," according to NWS. "This includes Interstate 80, Highway 50, California highways 88, 89, 267 and Nevada highways 28, 207 and 431. … There is a potential for significant snow accumulations that may create hazardous winter driving conditions."

When driving in winter conditions, Caltrans advises motorists to reduce speed; carry tire chains; keep a travel kit with blankets, food, water and a flashlight in the vehicle; maintain a full fuel tank; and don't use cruise control.

"Be patient and leave plenty of time to get where you need to go," Richins added.

To check road conditions and chain requirements before traveling through Caltrans, visit quickmap.dot.ca.gov or dot.ca.gov.

Contact information

Call 1-800-427-7623 to check highway conditions through Caltrans.

Call 530-581-6220 or email pcroads@placer.ca.gov regarding snow removal in Pacer County’s portion of Lake Tahoe.

Call 530-582-7707 or email publicworks@townoftruckee.com regarding snow removal in the town of Truckee.

———-

READ MORE:

Tahoe winter parking: How to not break the law, and how much it’ll cost if you do