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@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.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

Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Fire Department Twitter page
Mercer Island Marine Patrol recovers Bellevue man who drowned in Lake Washington

Mercer Island’s Marine Patrol recovered an adult male who drowned in Lake… Continue reading

Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Fire Department Twitter page
Bellevue, Mercer Island emergency responders search for missing man in Lake Washington

Staff Report Members of the Mercer Island Police Department (MIPD) Marine Patrol… Continue reading

Freshwater variety of kokanee salmon from Lake Sammamish. 	File photo
Researchers track ‘mysterious’ kokanee salmon in region

Kokanee in Lake Washington and Sammamish are genetically unique. Over the past decades, their numbers have dwindled.

A protective mask hanging on a front door. (Sound Publishing file photo)
King County to lift indoor mask mandate on June 29

About 1.3 million county residents have completed their COVID-19 vaccine series.

File photo
King County leaders propose emergency funding for gun violence prevention initiative

Sixty-nine people were reportedly shot during the first quarter of 2021.

Pills taken during police investigation (photo credit: Bellevue Police)
Renton man charged with homicide after selling fentanyl pills to a Bellevue woman

Law enforcement warns of an alarming increase in fentanyl deaths.

t
Bellevue shines in fastpitch and lacrosse action

Bellevue fastpitch hurler Rachel Treves fires away during the Wolverines’ 11-1 victory… Continue reading

Photos by Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
King County Council approves $631 million emergency COVID budget

Staff reports The King County Council approved a seventh round of emergency… Continue reading

Flames attack the hillside in Bonney Lake on Sept. 8, 2020. (East Pierce Fire & Rescue photo)
WA firefighters brace for potentially busy weekend

Washington state Department of Natural Resources firefighters were preparing for what could… Continue reading

Most Read