Lincoln, NE (October 25, 2021) Lincoln transportation, public safety and recreation officials today outlined a coordinated winter operations they say is planned to keep City streets safe.
“Keeping Lincoln safe during winter storms is a team effort,” said Lincoln Fire and Rescue Chief Dave Engler. “Lincoln’s firefighters, snowfighters, officers, and Parks and Recreation teammates have been preparing for this all year.”
“Every winter, we learn more about how to effectively and efficiently keep our streets clear of ice and snow, and we apply those lessons to improve our operations,” said Liz Elliott, Director of the Lincoln Transportation and Utilities (LTU) Department. “Every storm is different and we rely on pavement sensors and weather forecasting to make data-driven decisions on the best use of our machinery, materials, and staffing.”
The 2021/2022 winter operations budget is $5,495,281.
During larger snowstorms, city and contractor crews plow more than 2,600 lane miles of streets and 90 miles of bike trails. Generally, LTU’s first priority is to plow emergency snow routes and arterial streets, then remaining arterials and school and bus routes before moving into residential areas if necessary. Elliott said that delay can create dangerous conditions in residential areas. To prevent that, she said the Residential Plowing Test Program has been extended into a second season. LTU has contracted with five private companies to plow and maintain residential streets while LTU crews simultaneously treat and plow the priority arterial streets.
“During last year’s historic 15-inch snowstorm, the program resulted in residential neighborhoods being cleared at least 72 hours earlier than they would have been under the previous plan,” Elliott said.
All City and contractor vehicles will be equipped with GPS tracking devices. “Winter operations team members will have more data available to them to increase efficiency on the streets,” said Tim Byrne, LTU Maintenance Operations Manager. “This year, our team has also increased communication with all snowfighters and has fine-tuned its street inspection process and training,”
The GPS devices also allow the public to track the progress of snowplows during winter weather events through a map at snow.lincoln.ne.gov. The map gives residents a real-time look at the areas that have been inspected, areas where plows are operating, and areas where the plows will go next.
When large amounts of snow need to be cleared from the streets, parking bans may be used to assist in ensuring emergency vehicles can respond appropriately. “We urge residents to create a parking ban plan now for where you will park if and when a parking ban goes into effect,” said Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins. “The last thing we want to do is tow any vehicle that is blocking the way for a snowplow to plow the street, which in turn, hinders emergency response times.”
Because many residents use the City’s trail network to commute, the Parks and Recreation staff works to maintain 90 miles of all-weather surface trails during winter storms. About 70% of these trails are school walking routes, so efforts are made to have these trails open for the morning commute to schools.
“Parks and Recreation has equipment and staff dedicated to snow removal to keep our popular trail system accessible year-round,” said Lynn Johnson, Parks and Recreation Director. “We know our trails offer important connections to and from work and school and provide essential alternative transportation and recreation options for our community, no matter what the weather may bring.”
City officials say the residents are also members of the snow operations team and can help in several ways:
All emergency declarations and parking bans remain in effect until terminated by the City. Three types of parking bans may be declared:
During snow removal district parking bans, free downtown parking will be available from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. at Center Park Garage, 1100 “N” St. Residents will be charged for any time beyond the nine hours at the posted garage rate. If the vehicle remains in the facility past 10 a.m., the customer will be charged for the entire time the vehicle was in the facility.
Changes to StarTran schedules and routes due to winter weather events will be included in winter operation updates provided by the City at snow.lincoln.ne.gov. For more information on StarTran, visit transit.lincoln.ne.gov.
City ordinance requires property owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks by 9 a.m. the day following the end of the snowstorm. Sidewalks must be kept clear of snow and ice during the day. The entire width of the walk must be cleared, along with any adjoining wheelchair ramps or curb cuts. Residents may report unshoveled sidewalks via the UPLNK app on their mobile phones or on the UPLNK page at lincoln.ne.gov.
Notice is given to property owners after the City receives a complaint about an unshoveled sidewalk. City ordinance requires written notice to be left on the front door or other conspicuous place on the property. If an unresolved problem is reported again, the City may hire a snow removal contractor, and the owner is responsible for the charges. It is illegal to push or blow snow into or on any street, alley or sidewalk. Violators are subject to a fine.
Snow windrows in front of driveways is an unintended consequence of snow being cleared from the center of the street into the gutter. To help avoid this situation, LTU recommends removing snow up to 10 feet to the left of a driveway to create room along the curb for plowed snow.
Property Damage in Rights of Way
The areas between the paved streets and sidewalks are owned by the City and referred to as the right of way. Property owners are allowed to place objects in this area, such as mailboxes, sprinkler systems, landscaping and driveways. Property owners are responsible for maintenance, replacement or any damages to the objects on this City property caused by, but not limited to snow removal, street sweeping or other City activities. For more information, contact the City Law Department at 402-441-7281.
The Lincoln Police Department requests that drivers who become stuck in the snow stay with their vehicles until assistance arrives. Abandoned vehicles will be towed. To request police assistance, residents may call the non-emergency assistance line at 402-441-6000.
Vehicles parked illegally during parking bans are subject to fines, towing and storage costs at the owners’ expense. Vehicles parked in a way that do not allow emergency vehicles to pass may be ticketed for obstructing a public street. For information on towed vehicles, call the Emergency Communications Center, 402-441-6000.
Winter Fire Safety
Remember to inspect chimney flues and furnaces, change filters, and test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace the batteries if needed. Remember that unattended candles, fireplaces, and space heaters can cause fires. After weather events, residents are encouraged to maintain a clear route to front doors for easy access in case of a medical emergency.
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