Work On New London Roads To Take "Several More Days"

City focusing on widening roads, clearing intersections

As the Department of Public Works continued to work on New London roads on Monday following the weekend nor’easter, Public Works Director Tim Hanser said work to remove snow and improve road conditions will be a multi-day effort.

Hanser said plow crews started work on Friday by salting roads to prevent snow from bonding to the surface. There are 10 main plow routes in the city, and the Parks Division of the department clears some smaller routes such as dead-end roads. Private contractors were also used to clear downtown streets as well as municipal and school parking lots, while school custodians were brought in to help clear sidewalks.

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Hanser said the response to the blizzard was more challenging than Hurricane Sandy, since snow accumulation made it harder to find alternate routes if downed wires or other issues made a road impassable.

“This is going to take several more days to really get back to normal,” said Hanser.

Storm response strategy

The city set a goal of making each street in the city passable by the end of the day on Sunday. Hanser said the Emergency Operations Center reached out via Facebook to collect information on unplowed roads and the Department of Public Works used this information as well as issues phoned in to the EOC to address problem areas.

During the storm, plow crews focused on keeping main routes passable to allow access for emergency vehicles. He said the plows keep their blades down while driving, meaning some intersections receive multiple passes in the course of a route.

“Obviously our highest priority is always the arterials” Hanser said. “We want to keep those as open as we can.”

Hanser said the storm response calls for making roads passable, then widening the accessible areas of a street—especially two-way streets with only one lane available—and removing snow that has piled up at the intersections to improve visibility. Hanser said the plows are tasked with clearing 63 miles of roads in the city.

“I think we can safely say that 50 miles are in workable conditions,” Hanser said on Monday morning. “They’re by no means perfect.”

Challenges during the storm

Hanser said New London and other cities in Connecticut have different challenges from rural areas when it comes to storm response. He said the biggest problems facing plow drivers were streets that are narrow, winding, steep, or with on-street parking, particularly if vehicles were in violation of the parking ban.

“If they’re parked on both sides it’s almost impossible to get a plow down those streets,” said Hanser.

The volume and weight of the snow presented a major challenge in snow removal. Hanser said plow crews have had to be cautious to avoid mechanical breakdowns.

Two plows did break down during the storm. One was a truck assigned solely to salt spreading. Another was a plow that broke down and had to be taken out of service. In areas were plows were not able to negotiate a street, snow had to be removed with a front-end loader or backhoe.

“With regards from our equipment we’ve been very fortunate,” said Hanser. “We’ve gotten reports from other towns that they’ve had several plows out of service.”

Three new snowplows purchased for the department have not yet arrived. However, Hanser said the plow apparatus for them was delivered early and installed on some of the older trucks.

Hanser said the crews also worked for 40 hours straight before they were given a 12-hour break on Sunday. He said the city continued to use the private contractors for downtown work during this period, and that there was about a four-hour stretch on Sunday when snow removal efforts were on hold.

“They were really stressed by this storm,” Hanser said of the crews. “This is really pushing people to their limits, and I think they’ve been performing well.”

Continuing issues

Hanser said Monday’s rain raised concerns about roofs collapsing from the weight of the snow, and that building inspectors were looking into flat-topped municipal buildings for any issues there.

Snow that has been removed rather than plowed is being taken to Parcel J at the corner of Bank Street and Howard Street as well as some lots under the Gold Star Bridge. Hanser said that while the department is working to make roads passable, it will not be able to physically remove the snow from every street.

“It would be herculean,” he said. “It would be very expensive and it would take a very long time.”

Some residents have also complained that plow operations are pushing snow onto cleared sidewalks or driveways. Hanser said he regretted these cases but that it is sometimes inevitable if there is no other place to push the snow out of the roadway.

“It’s not intentional. Nobody’s trying to make more work for anybody,” said Hanser. “It’s just the sheer physics of the situation.”

Hanser said the magnitude of the storm will make the response more expensive than usual. He said the city will be seeking federal reimbursement and that budget projections for the current fiscal year have been based on the anticipation that the Department of Public Works will end its fiscal year with no money left over in the storm response items. The budget includes funding for the response to 10 winter storms, including salt and overtime costs.

“At this point I’m pretty comfortable that we won’t have any problems with those accounting lines,” said Hanser.

Clarification: the article initially read that Hanser said the Public Works budget did not include any extra funding for storm response. This meant that budget projections for the current fiscal year being calculated by Finance Director Jeff Smith are not being made with the assumption that the department will respond to fewer than 10 storms. The wording has been clarified.

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NewLondonSource February 12, 2013 at 12:51 PM
"[Tim Hanser said] that budget projections for the current fiscal year do not include any extra funding for storm response. The budget includes funding for the response to 10 winter storms, including salt and overtime costs." Ok....so which is it? Does the budget include the funding for storm response or not? “At this point I’m pretty comfortable that we won’t have any problems with those accounting lines,” said Hanser. Obviously directly dependent on the answer to my first question, but in addition, is he assuming that he will receive some order of federal reimbursement in order to make the statement about staying within his budget line? If so, that's poor management. If not, and we receive federal reimbursement, Mr Hanser might look into how to use the additional funds to improve equipment/public works infrastructure....or give it back to the general fund!
Alphonse DeLachance February 12, 2013 at 02:03 PM
So please explain the comment by the Mayor in the Day paper on Sunday where he stated that the streets were expected to be cleared on Sunday! Does the mayor not talk to the PW director? Was the mayor actually talking with the PW director and Hanser got it all wrong? Are the PW employees sticking it to the tax payers to run up the overtime? Clearly there is a huge transparency issue and competence issue in this administration. But the DJF cheerleaders will construe this as an attack rather than actual probing questions resulting from the mayors comments in the Day. We know that the answer will be the Day misquoted the Mayor, or it was a computer glitch or the fault of someone besides the mayor and his staff. But it does get very old! My god it is snow plowing not brain surgery!
Dirk Langeveld February 12, 2013 at 02:09 PM
That wording should have been clearer, and I've made the clarification in the article. The finance director is making quarterly budget projections to track whether departments are running a deficit, and Hanser said the Public Works projections have been made on the assumption that there will be no surplus in the storm response budget as sometimes happens in mild winters.
Daryl Justin Finizio February 12, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Alphonse, I told Kathleen Edgecomb that we would get a plow down each street by midnight Sunday. That was our goal. Full "Clearing" will take days. She reported it as Mayor said roads would be "clear" by Sunday. Yes it is the Day's error. Though I'm sure many won't believe that and I am sure there will be some who think I caused it to snow ! -Daryl Finizio
Sue P. February 12, 2013 at 04:26 PM
I don't blame you for the snow, I know for a fact it was Obama who did this to us. lol
Sue P. February 12, 2013 at 04:39 PM
Let's just take a deep breath and think about this huge snow storm. Back in 1978 we also had a huge blizzard. What do I remember about that blizzard? I remember all of the parents drinking coffee and screaming from the door for all of us kids to shovel us out. Not only did we have to shovel out our homes and driveways but also our elderly neighbors. The kids have not had school for the last few days. Let's get the NLHS football team out there shoveling. They can do their community service and weight training all in at once. When the kids ask how much they will get paid? Tell them they will get paid by having a roof over their heads and food on the table. Problem solved!
Sue P. February 12, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Oh No, now I'm going to have some liberal telling me that this is child labor. No it's not child labor it's called parenting.
William Desmond February 12, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Thank Mr. Mayor for restoring our faith that each and every time it is not your fault, it is always someone else who was at fault. We wanted and voted for a "The Buck Stops Here" leader not a "The Bull Starts Here" leader as strong mayor. We know that you did not and could not cause the snow. Only your cheer-leading squad thinks you have god like abilities.
William Desmond February 12, 2013 at 06:03 PM
Mr. Mayor you can prevent this by doing all your press releases to the Day in writing and then when they print it wrong you could prove it! Could it be that ego gets in the way and you feel compelled to speak to these reporters that "ALWAYS" get it wrong?
Jeff Brown February 12, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Keep up the good work!
Heidi Cleveland February 12, 2013 at 09:09 PM
I appreciate all the work that is being done. Snow is hard work. I have got to repeat that Raymond street is scary. It dips down into large hill that runs into Broad street. I have to drive down it to get to my street. There are cars on either side and piles of snow everywhere. It is a bad accident waiting to happen.
Spencer February 12, 2013 at 09:24 PM
I hate to add insult to injury---BUT--NOAA is saying we could have another snow system that will give us another 6 inches Wednesday into Thursday---AND there is a possibility oif even more snow Saturday into Sunday. Yeah---this could take a few days!!!!


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