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Dec 09

Linn County Secondary Roads is Winter Weather Ready

Posted on December 9, 2021 at 1:46 PM by Britt Nielsen

Linn County Snow Plow

The Linn County Secondary Road Department is ready for winter weather and wants residents to be prepared too. By sharing information with residents about the Secondary Road Department’s hours of operation, snow routes, and snow and ice ordinance and policy, the department can help ensure efficient responses to all winter weather events.

Priority and Standard Routes

Snow removal routes on Linn County secondary roads are prioritized by traffic count and designated as Priority Routes and Standard Routes. For the 2021-22 season, priority response has expanded from 21 to 30 Priority Routes to include all hard surfaced roads. In past years, our Priority Routes consisted of 21 routes, which included most of the hard surfaced roads except for subdivisions. Our Standard Routes (41 total including Priority Routes) include every road in our system, rock and hard surfaced. The type of response depends on the specific winter weather event. 

Response times can vary greatly depending on the winter weather conditions. During a Priority Route response, 30 crew members operating 30 truck plows usually take three hours to clear all hard surfaced roads. During a Standard Route response, 41 crew members operating 30 truck plows and 11 motor graders usually take 10-12 hours to clear all Linn County secondary roads. Linn County has approximately 1,200 miles of secondary roads, which is roughly the equivalent of driving from Linn County to Nashville and back. And, in order to plow the roads, we have to drive (slowly) in both directions, so 1,200 miles of road becomes 2,400 miles plowed.

Maps of the Priority and Standard Routes are available on Linn County’s website.  

Snow & Ice Ordinance and Policy

In addition to knowing about the snow routes, residents should familiarize themselves with the Linn County snow and ice ordinance and policy. The full ordinance and policy can be viewed on the Linn County website, but important points include:

  • Regular hours of operation for the Secondary Road Department are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. These hours may be extended during a snow event to 4 a.m. - 6 p.m. If it snows more than one inch on a Saturday or Sunday, the maximum hours of operation are 4 a.m. – 6 p.m. Linn County does not operate outside of these maximum hours of operation except in the case of assisting emergency personnel or a declared emergency by the Board of Supervisors or Governor.
  • Hard surface roads are given priority during and following snow events.
  • Rock roads are plowed to provide access to the hard-surface system. Rock roads are opened to one-lane travel as soon as practicable during regular County operating hours. Road crews attempt to open rock roads to travel within two or three days following the snow event; this is not always possible during heavy snow with wind.
  • Linn County does not have a bare or dry pavement policy. Crews apply salt and sand to hard surfaced roads to provide grit and help clear the surface when practicable, particularly on hills, curves, and intersections. Salt and sand are only applied to hard surfaced roads due to the damage it can cause to rock roads. 

Salt and Rock Roads Don’t Mix

Salt is only applied to hard surfaced roads during snow or ice events due to the damage salt can cause to rock roads. As the salt melts the snow/ice, it causes the salt and water solution to penetrate into the road surface. This causes the road surface to break up and loosens the previously hard packed surface. This process will continue to progress into the base of the road and can create a quicksand-like effect. Additional damage to the road can occur as vehicles drive over the road because they sink into the road instead of riding across the top.

Hours of Operation

As mentioned earlier, regular hours of operation for the Secondary Road Department are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. These hours may be extended during a snow event to 4 a.m. - 6 p.m. If it snows more than one inch on a Saturday or Sunday, the maximum hours of operation are 4 a.m. – 6 p.m. Linn County does not operate outside of these maximum hours of operation except in the case of assisting emergency personnel or a declared emergency by the Board of Supervisors or Governor. 

When determining whether to expand hours of operation, the Operations Superintendent monitors multiple weather forecasting apps, uses the Iowa DOT Road Weather Information System to check air and pavement temperatures, and watches Iowa DOT live cameras to see current conditions when a winter weather event is predicted for Linn County. Then, around 1 a.m., the superintendent drives a two-hour route through the whole county in two-wheel drive to get a sense of how difficult it is to get around. If road conditions warrant, the superintendent calls the seven department managers who then call the 30-41 other crew members for an early start time. Mechanics are also called in early to be on hand should any issues arise.

Get Notified

Be in the know when it snows by signing up for text or email updates regarding Linn County’s snow event response. Sign up at LinnCountyIowa.gov/NotifyMe.

Winter Driving Safety Tips

Please drive safely this winter and practice these safe driving tips