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City gets help keeping streets clear


Forest Groves meager snow-clearing resources struggle with huge snowfall

A parade of six heavy-equipment vehicles rumbled west on Pacific Avenue Monday morning as the Oregon Department of Transportation added its weight to the street-clearing effort in Forest Grove.

It was the state’s third pass-through since snow began falling last Thursday, according to Rick Vanderkin, operations superintendent for the city’s Public Works Department.

City employees worked more steadily — until 9 p.m. Thursday, Vanderkin said, then Friday until 7 p.m. and for eight hours a day over the weekend, ending at midnight Sunday.

They focused on clearing the large collector roads such as Pacific and 19th avenues, as well as the arterial roads feeding into them, such as Maple, Elm and B streets.

They avoided the narrower local streets, Vanderkin said, where cars and driveways could get buried in a snowplow’s wake.

Despite the city’s efforts, people driving from Hillsboro on Highway 8 or from Gaston on Highway 47 found clear streets until they hit Forest Grove.

Although Highway 8 (which includes Pacific and 19th avenues) is a state highway, Forest Grove took jurisdiction of it as part of a deal back when the Highway 47 bypass was being built. So the state clears Highway 8 up to the Honda shop just east of McMenamins Grand Lodge, Vanderkin said, where the city takes control of the highway until Thatcher Road. That’s where it passes into county jurisdiction.

Still, the state helps Forest Grove plow because the city lends a hand to the state in other areas. “We’ll do some mowing for them along Highway 47,” Vanderkin said, or streetsweeping. It’s a cooperative arrangement, he said.

ODOT brought a powerful road-grader and two dumptruck-snowplows to Forest Grove, which has only one true snowplow. Besides that, the city has two backhoe tractors that can scoop up snow and drop it into dump trucks, which dump it in the empty lot across from the B Street transfer station.

“Our budget for snow- and ice-fighting is little because (big snows are) rare here,” said Dave Willer, the city’s street division supervisor. “In the city of Bend it’s 40 percent of their budget.”

Willer, who grew up in Forest Grove, said this was the most snow the city has seen since 2008 when 14 to 16 inches fell.

Public Works Director Rob Foster estimated Monday that the city had spent $7,000 on snow removal since Thursday — paid for by the city’s gas tax.