Portlanders look back at snowy start to 2017 as East Coast deals with ice


Portland leaders say the city’s reaction to winter weather will be different this time around because they’re learning from their mistakes.

When a big storm hit on December 14, dozens of cars were abandoned on West Burnside, but officials are now taking steps to make sure that doesn’t happen and everyone stays safe.

Having just taken over the city’s transportation bureau this week, Commissioner Dan Saltzman is tackling this weekend’s storm head on.

Saltzman said crews are getting plows and sanders ready and putting down anti-icer. By Saturday morning, he said, crews will be working around the clock.

“I think we’re really going to be prepared this time to do better,” he said.

Saltzman’s also trying to avoid the mess of abandoned cars by requiring chains or traction tires on West Burnside and Sam Jackson Park Road near OHSU. He also noted that drivers who ignore warning signs will be cited.

“Abandoned cars are very dangerous,” Saltzman said. “They block first responders, they make it harder for us to plow the streets and they also create excessive traffic congestion.”

Parks officials are warning about tree limbs snapping off due to extra weight from ice, while workers from Portland General Electric say no matter what it looks like, never approach a downed power line.

The big question still looms, though. Will Portland ever salt streets?

The Oregon Department of Transportation is testing salt in certain spots around the state, but city leaders would likely have to vote on its use in Portland.

O-DOT officials say there are also other issues that could prevent salt from being widely used.

“There’s a very limited supply available to us,” Rian Windsheimer explained. “We do not store salt here in the Portland metro region. We would have to figure out how to do that on a very targeted, very limited basis.”

City leaders do feel better prepared for this snowy go round but note that they still are operating within Portland’s limits.

“We are not a Chicago, we are not a Minneapolis or something like that,” Saltzman said. “And we’re never going to probably have the comparable size infrastructure rolling stock to deal with major snow and ice events that those cities have. It just doesn’t happen enough.”

TriMet officials are also urging riders to double check their schedule as buses may be on snow routes. They added that crews have been working since Friday morning to prepare buses and trains for the weekend storms, but added that if conditions become too dangerous they will alter or cancel service.

For the latest updates on TriMet service, visit TriMet.org/Alerts.

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