More roads in King County could be plowed during winter storms

Proposal targets 70 more miles in unincorporated areas.

Several roads in King County, including the Snoqualmie Parkway, were closed when a brief snow storm struck the region last February. File photo

Several roads in King County, including the Snoqualmie Parkway, were closed when a brief snow storm struck the region last February. File photo

More roads in unincorporated King County could be plowed during winter weather following last February, when multiple snow storms swept through the region and ground much of it to a halt.

The county’s Road Services Division maintains about 1,500 miles of roads, and during winter weather, plows 583 miles. These stretches of road are usually able to be cleared within five days. However, during severe back-to-back storms like last winter, the county’s resources are stretched thin.

During February’s storms, cities including Snoqualmie and North Bend had to call in additional help from regional agencies, including King County. States of emergency were declared in both cities. While the National Weather Service’s three-month forecast is swinging slightly in favor of a warmer than normal winter, King County is drafting plans to plow even more roads if needed.

At its Oct. 2 meeting, the King County Council forwarded a proposal to committee, which if approved would allow it to plow an additional 70 miles of roadway. Some 50 miles of this would be in places above 500 feet in elevation and the remaining 20 miles would be set aside for unspecified lower-elevation roads to allow flexibility. More than half of the miles that are currently plowed are main roadways and arterials that are either commuter routes or connections between communities. The rest are smaller routes between towns or commuter routes.

The new miles that would be plowed are mainly neighborhood collector roads. The county also expects to clear roads faster, shortening its response time from five to four days for all categories of roads that it clears.

There are three options for achieving this. The first is the option preferred by the county, and would allow it to place contractors on-call. The county would retain snow and ice contractors to supplement the county staff and equipment. A county report estimated its Road Services Division division would need an additional 10 truck drivers along with more equipment operators and supervisors. This option was expected to cost around $350,000 annually.

The second option is to purchase additional snow equipment and hire more employees. The county would hire 18 additional Road Services Division employees and buy six additional dump trucks and plows, two pickup trucks and four crew trucks. During the rest of the year, the staff would perform other jobs such as road and drainage work. The county reports this would cost more than $7.4 million the first year and nearly $4.2 million in subsequent years, making it the most expensive.

The third option is a collaborative one where the county would partner with state agencies, but wouldn’t achieve the goal of shortening the time spent clearing roads from five to four days. This option would include finding enough qualified drivers as well as significant retrofitting of existing vehicles and would cost $714,000 for the first year for each storm. In following years, the price would drop to $114,000 per storm.

The report noted the county’s Road Services Division department’s financial struggles as a factor to be considered. Without new revenue sources, plowing the additional 70 miles will be paid for from other programs and projects.

Roads and bridges in King County are underfunded to the tune of $250 million each year, and money for capital investments is expected to run out within the next six years. An analysis by the company BERK found the county could use up to $500 million each year to fully fund transportation infrastructure projects.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

School lunch. File photo
School district distributes thousands of extra meals amid pandemic

Congress hasn’t renewed the program, which provided twice as many student meals for free last spring.

The Enumclaw Health and Rehabilitation Center, which is located by St. Elizabeth hospital, a senior living community, and a nursing home. File photo
Inslee lifts visitation ban at long-term care facilities

Starting Wednesday, a four-phase plan will allow restrictions at nursing homes to gradually be relaxed.

Screenshot from Gov. Jay Inslee’s press conference on Aug. 5, 2020.
Inslee says schools in virus hot spots should stay closed

King County among high-risk counties; several school districts will have remote learning in the fall.

King County Election headquarters in Renton on Aug. 4 for the primary election. Haley Ausbun/staff photo
Inslee and Culp lead governor race; incumbent Dems ahead for Congress | Statewide results

Early results for governor, state schools chief, attorney general and more.

Democrats dominate King County legislative races | Election results

Here are the latest results for King County legislative candidates in the… Continue reading

Vote election badge. File photo
5th District results: Ramos leads House race; Anderson edging Mullett for state Senate

Early results have been reported in the 5th Legislative District races from… Continue reading

King County Election headquarters in Renton, on primary Election Day, Aug. 4. Voters can return their ballot and register in-person at the election headquarters and other voting centers by 8 p.m. Haley Ausbun/Staff photo.
Still time to vote in August primary

Turn in your ballot at any voting center by 8 p.m.

Did Republicans give up on the 5th District?

The sole Republican candidate has raised only $3,100.

Inslee mask graphic
Free mask event for King County residents, Aug. 4 in Bellevue

The drive-thru distribution event will offer two masks per person

Primary election 2020: Who will emerge as Inslee’s challenger?

Voting ends Tuesday in an election without big rallies and fund-raisers and face-to-face debates

Sex ed, local control at heart of race for WA state schools chief

Incumbent Chris Reykdal faces five foes who argue he’s pushing too many state policies on school districts.

Extra $600 in federal benefit for unemployed workers set to end July 25

Payment is on top of base weekly state benefit amount