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News items produced by the City of Eden Prairie Communications Division are intended for members of the news media and the community at large.

A Message from Public Works Director Robert Ellis

Post Date:February 13, 2019

Public Works Director Robert EllisOver the past few weeks, the City of Eden Prairie has experienced a number of remarkable weather events. This included some historic low temperatures and near record accumulation for the month of February. For that reason, I want to begin with a note of thanks to all of you for your patience and support as our streets maintenance crews have worked to provide you with safe travels through rain, sleet, snow and subzero temperatures.

I thought this would also be an appropriate occasion to share how the City of Eden Prairie manages winter weather events. As storms approach, we monitor the situation closely with road and weather information systems that track real-time air and road temperatures, humidity and dew points, and tell us when ice, water, snow or sleet is forming on the road. One of these systems is located on the west side of Eden Prairie on Dell Road and the other on the east side along Viking Drive, since conditions are not always uniform across the city.

Our snow response team uses this and other information to decide the best strategy for managing weather events, which includes determining when to begin a response, what level of personnel is required, what equipment to use and salt application rates. We make most of these decisions in the early morning hours between midnight and 3 a.m. to provide enough time for the snow response team to move into action, with a goal of making roads passable before the morning rush hours. Because most of our snow response team lives outside Eden Prairie, this early planning is critical so they have enough time to arrive and begin prepping equipment.

With these most recent weather events, we have seen the amount of space available for snow storage slowly disappear. This often requires several follow-up visits through neighborhoods to push snow back away from the road and make space for snow in time for the next event. We try not push snow onto driveways or sidewalks any more than necessary, but when we receive a large volume of snow, it becomes more difficult to manage. Please know we try to be equitable in the placement of snow down a roadway, but fixtures like fire hydrants, light poles, utility boxes, mailboxes and driveways add to the complexity.

When it comes to salt, Eden Prairie strives to find the appropriate balance between providing safe roads and reducing impacts on the environment. Salt is great at reducing the melting point of ice, which aids in snow and ice removal operations. However, it also has several negative side effects. The corrosive properties in salt damages the steel found in bridges, as well as the reinforcing steel in concrete roads and storm water pipes. The salt used on streets also infiltrates into ground water and surface water, which has a negative impact on drinking water and the habitats many native plants and animals rely on. We carefully manage the use of salt with these factors in mind.

As we found during the recent ice storm, salt is not necessarily a cure-all. At extremely low temperatures, the effectiveness of salt use quickly wanes. In fact, during the extreme low temperatures of the polar vortex, we found salt almost completely ineffective on low-volume and low-speed roads. State and county road maintenance crews had better luck with it as the high traffic volumes continually beat and dispersed the salt into the ice making it turn to slush, and the high speeds aided in casting it out of the driving lanes or onto vehicles allowing the roads to dry. On most Eden Prairie roads – which see much less traffic traveling at much slower speeds – that was not the case. Even after three rounds of citywide salt application, we saw only marginal improvements at the extreme low temperatures we experienced.

As we look down the road at another six weeks of winter, we continue our commitment to provide this community with the highest quality services. We appreciate your trust in us as we work to maintain safe streets in Eden Prairie.

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