In Case You Hadn’t Noticed…..

By Sara Baker
Ada County Highway Commissioner

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the unusual winter storms we have had this winter in Ada County. What has been in short supply are facts. So below are facts regarding the storm, the response and the cooperation.

We have had 35.5 inches of snow this winter – so far. Usually, it comes then melts then comes again. This year it came and stayed. And more came and stayed. And more came and stayed again. There have not been conditions like this since records were kept from 1892 much less 1985-86 that we keep hearing from the media.
ACHD employees charged with plowing, sanding, de-icing and reducing flooding have been working 12 hour shifts, one group on – one group off, around the clock since December 10, 2016 through January 25, 2017. That means that these people were working on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day and every weekend for 46 days straight with only 2 days off.

ACHD has 58 pieces of equipment, including 37 plows, 7 graders/loaders, and various de-icing units which spread mag Chloride and sand.

We have supplemented ACHD equipment with a ready reserve of seven private contractors that we put into place two years ago for just this situation. Together they bring 23 additional plowing units to the table.

ACHD was able to use the National Guard to help with snow plowing during their training week. While normally ACHD maintains the State Highways in Garden City and Boise (Chinden, Glenwood, Broadway, the Connector) during this long snowy month and a half, ITD helped maintain those roadways. ACHD also waived fees for HOA’s to contract with landscape companies to expedite their participation.

In the spirit of cooperation and mutual aid, we had great help from the cities throughout the county. Mayor Joe Stear of Kuna and Mayor Stan Ridgeway of Eagle ran skidsters to help clear local roads and sidewalks. Meridian activated school kids and Boy Scout Troops to clear sidewalks and drains. Every city’s police and fire departments helped with clearing storm drains and helped notify ACHD of critical areas. Garden City pitched in with front end loaders to help clear side streets. Boise used contractors to help clear downtown parking spaces.

We received three emergency calls from emergency service providers of which all three were met quickly, including plowing a Boise City Fire Station’s driveway.

Ada County has 4783 lane miles, 7965 discrete residential roads, 2915 cul-de-sacs and almost 25,000 storm drains. All of these received the same 35.5 inches of snow.

ACHD has had to close Warm Springs Ave to traffic near the Mesa, because rocks and boulders are shedding from the unstable hillside.

Finally, be thankful we are not Weiser in Washington County. They are in a real State of Emergency declared by the Governor. And in the spirit of cooperation and mutual aid, ACHD has sent a piece of heavy equipment to Weiser to help them through this trying time.
Those are the facts.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Yossarian_22
    Jan 24, 2017, 3:43 pm

    At this moment (Jan 24th), most roads are passable and things are much more under control than a couple of weeks ago. There is a learning curve that had to be absorbed in absence of such inclement weather for a long time passing. We are learning now. I hope that we will be better prepared for a return of this kind of weather in the coming weeks and years. Coordination and citizen/agency teamwork will suffice to survive this. Communication of productivity will serve best. We need to be good neighbors and pitch in when possible. Good luck to us all.

  2. I love it when politicians attempt to explain why they have failed, and just end up looking foolish and out of touch. I bet her street got plowed, while I had to drive my wife to work for two weeks because our streets were near impassable. You FAILED! just say it out loud to yourself, it will help with your denial. It’s called being prepared! You rattle off the statistics as to how many streets are in the county. I have news for you, the number of streets was the same before and after the storms! Save the lecture and do your job!

  3. Sarah,

    Rest assured your streets and roadways are in much better shape than the entire City of Nampa streets are currently and Boise has much better streets open than does the so-called second (maybe third) largest city in Idaho.

    If the Mayor of Boise doesn’t like it, he usually doesn’t, then maybe he ought to resign as Mayor and run for ACHD District Board. I am pretty certain that will not happen.

  4. Grumpy OleGuy
    Jan 24, 2017, 6:45 pm

    Thanks to Sarah Baker for these points of clarification. I’ve loved here since the Fall of 1977 and will say that in general the roads are handled better now than when we arrived. Lots of room for improvement, but progress gratefully noted

  5. Gigi Ferreira
    Jan 24, 2017, 8:03 pm

    Thank you for this article. It helps put into perspective the scope of the snow. To not have this much snow for 35 years, I think ACHD did a phenomenal job. Thank you!!

    It’s a lot of work. The snow slowed things down a little bit, but that is not a bad thing. Sometimes we need to slow down and be more present in life and appreciative.

  6. Why shouldn't we?
    Jan 24, 2017, 8:55 pm

    Ms. Barker, What are the pros and cons of rolling ACHD into the county? Or, perhaps let Boise take care of itself? Would it mean more money for those outside of Boise if the city was independent? What does Boise contribute vs. what they receive? Is Boise being a higher priority the reason why we never see a plow on the side streets out in the county? Boise seems to be burdensome and demanding on those outside it’s limits. Perhaps good riddance is in order?

    The voters can make your organization disappear. Why shouldn’t we? I’m not joking. This was not some terrible upper Midwest kind of winter. Worst ever for Boise perhaps, but really still not that bad. Yep, we know your workers are working hard. This is not about them. This is about leadership. Please address how you let this happen and what you will do different in the future.

  7. 2915 Cul-de-sacs? That is alot of unhappy houses who are having the worst of it. A coworker lives in one…fire truck got stuck 2 weeks ago and ACHD truck got stuck yesterday trying to fix the problem. Cul-de-sacs and modern developments have shown to create unwalkable neighborhoods; now they have shown to create snow nightmares.

  8. ho hum,

    It is strategy that achd lacks and that is deficient. for example letting sara baker comment.

    If all you have are pr politicians, everything looks like a pr opportunity.

    It there were any snow removal experts, then there would be a real conversation.

  9. Boise City’s argument for control of the streets is not about snow removal. It is about yielding streets to bicycle lanes, parking sensors and street car tracks. This is all about greasing the skids for City whims.

  10. My issue is not with the ACHD, but rather with those business and home owners who have done absolutely nothing to keep the sidewalks adjacent to their properties clear of snow and ice as the law requires. That’s the real scandal, which barely has been mentioned let alone addressed.

  11. Ronnie Marler
    Jan 25, 2017, 10:15 am

    Thanks for everything ACHD does. I think allot of people don’t take into account the larger picture.

    Pass along to your drivers my appreciation for their long hours and dedication.

  12. IMO, it’s Shoogi who looks foolish and out-of-touch.

    Yes! The politicians failed! It’s THEIR fault that we had so much snowfall! It’s THEIR fault that they don’t have enough equipment to move 3 feet of snow off all 4800 miles of road, and have it done before Shoogi’s wife needs to go to work! (eyes rolling…)

    REALITY CHECK: Area taxpayers don’t want to pay another $100 per year (or whatever it would cost) to have a fleet of snow removal equipment and related maintenance, personnel, etc., that will sit idle for 29 years… but ready for use in year 30. And any politician who suggested it would look foolish and out-of-touch! (And PLEASE! I’m not suggesting that we don’t have our share of politicians who seem a little foolish and out-of-touch!)

    Clancy makes another good point. I’d never really thought about it. Our modern neighborhoods – you know, the ones where all you can see is the 3-car garages as you wend your way down the meandering, cul-de-sacked roadway – are NOT “snow removal friendly.” Oh man! I don’t envy the poor souls who have to plow out 3000 cul-de-sacs – before go-to-work hour!

    I appreciate Ms. Baker’s presentation of “the facts.” My hat is off to ACHD. And I’m happy to live in Ada County (and not Payette or Washington County – at least right now!).

  13. Before we ask ACHD to invest in resources to handle a draconian sustained snow event, ask yourself if you really want to pay for 50% more equipment that will only be used every 30-40 years. I would prefer we more efficiently staff for normal conditions plus an assumed 10-year event or some other best practice, and come together as a community to address such unusual events.

    It is frustrating that the divisive politics we see in Washington is occurring locally. As stated in my last post on a related article, the Mayor missed a major opportunity in his Op-Ed to use that forum to discuss how the City stepped up and helped. While his op-ed did mention the City helped, the primary tenor of the op-ed was to complain about ACHD and assert his empire building strategy. My respect for the Mayor would have increased if he could have for one moment put his personal mission aside, and helped bring the community together during an emergency.

    We all know how much ACHD and the City of Boise dislike each other, how cool would it have been if the only message we saw was them putting aside differences and working together for the citizens? Instead the mayor used the emergency to advance a personal agenda with negative attacks on other agencies, and ACHD missed an opportunity to ignore his attack, take the high road and simply thank the City for their help during this disaster. It seems both agencies prefer to exist in a war or words and mud slinging.

    To be frank the Mayor just needs to shut up, stop complaining and bring forward a plan that details how he would manage the streets, the resources it would require, and the source of those resources, but as far as being sensitive to his constant complaints, I am so over it, the more he just complains without a plan, the more credibility he loses.

  14. Global Weirding
    Jan 25, 2017, 1:50 pm

    Most folks think global warming means simply a slow warming.
    More heat though, equals more storm energy, and that translates to greater extremes of drought, precipitation, temperatures, and winds.
    As our global society gets poorer, from the falling Energy Return On Investment (ERIO), our climate related cost of infrastructure damage is going up due to our dependence on diminishing fossil fuels.
    Bad situation.

  15. One thing you cry babies forget, we voted to form ACHD way before most off you lived here. I live in the foot hills and don’t think we didn’t have our share of problems. But this will pass, then you all an can bitch about the heat.

  16. Or the “alternative facts”

    Any professional driving outfit does not want their drivers driving 12 hours a day– day-in, day-out for 2 months.

    A $100,000 brand new dump truck, plow set-up is not necessary to haul ice melt and push snow in a cul-de-sac.
    Used heavy trucks are available for less than half the salary of one ACHD PIO.

    In 2015 ACHD’s actual expense for salt was $115,795.
    Their budgeted 2016 (now) salt expense is $69,000.
    For some reason FY 2018 projection is $200,000 for the same expense. Really.

    Add an additional $300,000 salt STORAGE expense per year. Storage? Who is getting paid to store the salt? Or is that a shelter on ACHD property? Because there isn’t one already, or wth?
    WOW! That is some great weather forecasting, or bad as the case shows.

    ACHD’s budget doesn’t list “winter snow removal” as an item.
    So how can an ACHD PIO tell the news “our costs are already more than last year”? That’s a numbers game. One year could be warm enough to be doing sweeping and uses up the maintenance budget, while the next year snow is paying 20% more in employee overtime.

    This year is certainly a lot more expense- it would be nice if the Commissioners would identify specific projects by season within their budget.
    Chip-seal Total Cost-x.
    Snow Treatment Total – y.
    Sweeping Sand Total- y.

    C Bake is amiss in not remembering the November snow of 2014 when ACHD also delayed plowing the roads, right before an extended inversion kept the frozen snow on the roads for a long time.
    “Quintana admits that the highway district didn’t get it perfect this time around, but says that this particular storm short-circuited their system, which works well almost every time it snows.”
    “The ????surprise???? here was that it was a record snow event followed by record cold, ” he said.
    That was 2014!!!! Just 2 years ago.

    Cmr Bakers says, “There have not been conditions like this since records were kept from 1892”

    — I suppose Cmr Baker helped Spicer count at the inauguration too.

    For media and Commissioners to use history as an excuse is hugely Trumpian.

    Personally, I’m not looking at 35 inches of snow in the road- but whatever amount it is, it’s chunky and rock hard! The gutter is jammed and I can only hate what is going to happen to the Boise River when it all melts suddenly.

    This is the new norm folks!!!!
    – weather is becoming more severe in the cold direction and in the hot direction. For Boise, that means winter inversions.

    ANY decent amount of snow followed by a long Treasure Valley inversion = too much for ACHD to handle. It’s that simple.

    Let’s PLAN for it happening again, sooner than another 30 years.
    We can either accept it, as ‘it sucks’ and do nothing; or we can not waste so much budgeted money on stuff like 4 pretty ladies to help Quintana keep the TV news media informed in person, instead of him writing a press release, and instead be efficient with smaller more adaptable equipment. Think of Valley Ride buses– same problem.

    As for me, I’m just accepting it- with a shovel.
    But I certainly don’t appreciate politicians trying to blow smoke up ___.
    And it’s too much to expect ACHD to change for the better.

    Meanwhile Idaho votes for someone to ignore the climate all together.
    So we’ll all drive our SUVs over ACHD potholes and burn more oil and coal.
    Yeah, let’s close our eyes and do it baby!

  17. Yep, snow and related problems have been bad. Now as the asphalt fluctuates between thawing and freezing will come the potholes. If they don’t put load limits on most of these roads they will quickly disintegrate and it won’t be just potholes, it will be miles and miles of new roadway,

  18. But wait there is more….. I didn’t see any reference to the number of human injuries and property damage (vehicles) directly and indirectly related to the unplowed streets. Maybe if ACHD was held liable in whole or part for bodily injury or property damage related to the dangerous condition of residential streets they would place a higher priority on residential street clearing. Commish Baker needs to go to area hospitals and interview the patients who have suffered bodily injury due to ACHD’s priority policy. Idaho deals with emergencies all the the time. What is new is the ACHD’s disregard for this emergency. Imagine if these people were running the response to a flood emergency. They’d just say “It doesn’t happen often, so we’re going to ignore it”. Are you kidding me! Time to rethink ACHD’s policies and value to the citizens of Boise.

  19. Steve Rinehart
    Jan 26, 2017, 9:42 am

    Commissioner Baker has enough hot air to melt the ice ditches on Bella Street. One can only hope she and colleagues will learn some lessons from other snow cities, such as getting on it quickly and having back-up arrangements with private equipment operators.

  20. Clancy Anderson
    Jan 26, 2017, 12:37 pm

    It will be interesting to see how the State AG’s opinion will play out that states ACHD is responsible for sidewalk maintenance including snow removal.

    EDITOR NOTE–That issue is likely to “melt away.” There are standing agreements in place between ACHD and Boise City. Logically if ACHD were to actually have responsibility for sidewalks, they would control outdoor restaurant and bar seating, bike racks, flower pots, trees, etc. There is also an argument claiming sidewalks are OWNED by the property owners and the right-of-way is an EASEMENT.

  21. Bill Litster
    Jan 27, 2017, 6:46 am

    Re: bitching about ACHD snow removal by Shoogi

    Let’s see if I can translate Shoogi’s comments, then make an observation.

    “I had to drive my wife to work for two weeks because our streets were near impassable.”

    Translation #1:
    So, Shoogi, let’s make sure I understand this….

    YOU drove your wife to work in YOUR car because it was apparently properly equipped to drive in Idaho snow.
    Soooo…. the roads WERE actually “passable,” cuz it’s sounding like you “got past.”

    Translation #2

    Shoogi is a cheapskate as to his wife’s transportation and her ability to go and stop on a deep snow/icy road, but he’s got his own butt covered.



    Planet Earth to Shoogi:

    Hey Shoogi !

    They just came out with a really cool thing…

    It’s called all wheel drive cars with proper clearance and Bridgestone Blizzak Snow Tires !!

    Equip your wife with the proper equipment and we guarantee you that this winter she could have driven through any unplowed street, post-snow storm, anytime, anywhere in ACHD’s jurisdiction.

    ‘Nuff said.

  22. Steve Rinehart
    Jan 27, 2017, 8:56 am

    Hey Bill, do the math on your suggestion that every driver / car owner buys snow tires and / or all-wheel drive. Let’s low-ball the tire cost estimate, say 100 bucks a year for the five-year life of the tires plus two annual change-overs. And let’s guess that the premium for all-wheel drive, with purchase and more gas, is way higher than that. All that extra cost to have what you call the “proper equipment” for a month-long period in a rare year. Alternatively, all drivers / taxpayers kick in an extra 10 bucks a year (pick your mechanism; I would choose property tax bill) so ACHD can build a snow removal fund that would allow aggressive response in unusual circumstances. That might include keeping private equipment operators on a contingency contract; hiring temporary staff; buying some small equipment so the existing big trucks can do the big jobs, etc.

  23. Mr Rinehart. In two posts now you state ACHD should keep private contractors on contract to help with snow plowing. If you had read the original post, you would see we do exactly that.

  24. Bill Litster,

    A couple of points. First, as our new president would say, WRONG!!!

    My bitch wasn’t about the snow removal, my bitch is the ACHD making excuses, as usual.

    Second, I stated that the roads were “nearly impassable” and they were, for many vehicles, again, WRONG!!!

    Third, my wife drives a very expensive Lexus sedan, again WRONG!!!

    Oh, and congratulations on mastering that smug tone in your writing, your hand must be sore from patting yourself on the back…or something!

    “Nuff said.

  25. The City’s snow removal can be explained by one acronym: CCDC. CCDC stands for Capital City Development Corp. This organization intercepts property tax dollars for the properties within its boundaries in downtown Boise.

    By ordinance, City property owners must keep their sidewalks passable by the public. In CCDC’s district, this means that either the individual property owners or the district is responsible for the removal of snow and ice from the sidewalks. Instead, the Mayor dedicated City dollars to completing the job. First CCDC intercepted tax dollars paid by the most expensive real estate properties in the State, then it somehow convinced the Mayor to dedicate additional tax dollars to shoulder their responsibility. Maybe the Mayor can explain how he was strong-armed into spending City tax dollars on a limited number of business interests while businesses in other sections of the City were left to spend their own resources to assure accessibility. Or maybe he wasn’t strong-armed; maybe this expenditure of City taxpayer dollars is just another example of the incestuous relationships that seem to infuse our City government.
    I’m also wondering why people on streets that were not sufficiently plowed weren’t out there with their shovels. Get off the couch, and with two or three hours of shoveling by folks on your street, I’m sure you could tunnel out at least one lane. Yes, ACHD was overwhelmed, perhaps because of incompetent management. Yes, ACHD should have cleared all of our streets in a timely fashion. But it didn’t, or couldn’t. Government can’t do every thing for every body every time. These are trying times. Stop waiting for someone else to solve your problems, on whatever level, and create your own solutions.

  26. Clancy Anderson
    Jan 27, 2017, 3:45 pm

    Doggone, My business pays an additional assessment downtown to the DBA, another sanctioned taxing district. Assessments are collected by Boise City and manage privately. Monies go towards flower pots, sidewalk cleaning, snow removal and downtown events like Alive After 5. But you are right….CCDC does take some money away from ACHD, yet ACHD maintains downtown roads to a higher standard.

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