Road Maintenance Info

Road maintenance is the by far the biggest duty that the Public Works Depart has currently, with eighty miles of road in the city that has to be maintained year-round. Public Works has two full-time employees that carry out all of the road maintenance functions, so our days are regularly quite busy. Our team also is needed to work on projects and repairs required at the city buildings, parks, and recreation areas so it is challenging to dedicate staff exclusively to the roads.

Other than the weather, the other biggest obstacle in keeping the roads smooth are the roads themselves. Some roads either never had a proper gravel surface or the gravel has been washed into the ditches over the years so those roads will never be perfect. We do the best we can with what we currently have. We are planning to fix these roads when the time and the budget allows us to. Some roads have had the maintenance traded with the Mat-Su Borough for other roads. Not all roads in the city are maintained by us. Additionally, there are certain roads have not been accepted by the city for city maintenance, so they are not maintained. For example, W. Cheri Lake and portions of Airolo.

The weather, or more precisely the amount of moisture in the roadway itself, is the biggest determining factor for grading the roads. When the weather is right for grading, we break the areas down into geographical blocks where all the roads in that area can usually be graded in one shift. This isn’t always possible when a road needs multiple passes, because of the road width or it being in a bad condition. We grade all the maintained portions of the roads in about 2-3 weeks when the weather and conditions are right. Grading is not the only job we do, but it is a priority.

Snow removal is the largest part of our wintertime duties and removal begins when the snow depth reaches about three inches. It generally takes less than 48 hours to complete the snow removal once the snow stops. Heavier snow falls will take longer and oftentimes they bury the roads we started on, so they don’t always appear to have been plowed. School bus routes, primary roads, and secondary roads are the priorities before we start clearing the side streets. The city has many miles of road to plow with a regular crew of two people with the possibility of a future part-time third person. Rest assured we are opening the roads as quickly and as safely as we can. Heavy snowfall, snow drifts, road obstructions (Cars, stuck vehicles, garbage cans, etc.) can slow us down, so please help keep any road obstructions to a minimum so we can get to the remaining streets faster. We plan ahead as much as possible, but that does rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. 

Houston_City High and Lower Priority map

Road sanding is done in areas like intersections, steep hills, and curves as needed. We switched to a fractured rock traction sand so it will stay on the roadways better than the fine sands that were used in previous years. We try to keep a whole winter’s supply of sand in a dry storage area so that we don’t have to fight frozen blocks of sandy ice when we should be sanding the roads.

We try not to leave berms on driveways and side roads, but it may happen during the rush to get the roads opened up before the school buses start and people go to work. In years past the city crew cleared those berms, but with our current resources, the addition of many new driveways and current city size, we are unable to maintain that previous task.

Just a friendly reminder that it is illegal to plow snow onto or across the public road. Illegal plowing causes safety hazards as well as additional costs to the taxpayers. Citations and fines may be issued for repeated violations that cause excessive problems for the plow crews.