After being humbled by 2008 and 2010 road freezes that paralyzed the city’s transportation network, Seattle officials say they’ve learned some lessons for the expected heavy snows this winter.
The city has bought magnesium chloride brine, which is supposed to melt ice at 5 degrees instead of at 20 degrees like last year’s sodium chloride. In November 2010, city crews had melted all the morning snow by noon, only to see the standing water freeze before 4 p.m. on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and West Seattle Bridge route, not to mention the state freeways. Meanwhile, a shift change got under way at 3 p.m., and some staff initially doubted reports of cars stuck on the southbound Viaduct, said Steve Pratt, director of street maintenance. Pratt was still learning his way around the agency, having been hired weeks earlier to replace the suddenly departing Monty Sedlak. “There were major, major blunders,” he recalled Wednesday.
There will be overlapping shifts this year, and a different team of maintenance managers including Pratt in the control center, along with a police representative to monitor hazard spots, he said. Also, Seattle DOT and state DOT already have met to plan blanket brining of the Viaduct — especially southbound where it suddenly slows and curves to 25 mph at the stadiums, Pratt said.
Besides brine tanks, the city has gathered the usual coarse rock salt, mined from British Columbia, under what he calls the most photographed salt shed on the West Coast (below) at a maintenance yard near the Chinatown International District.
The city is launching a new weather response homepage that includes camera images and info on where plowing happened in the past one, three or 12 hours, via www.seattle.gov/transportation. King County Metro Transit is promoting its winter website, available here.