Wayne County is responsible for snow removal along more than 2,000 miles of roads within its borders - from major freeways, to surface roads to side streets [in townships only]. That's an important responsibility that we take very seriously. Wayne County was the first agency in the nation to establish a policy of clearing snow from its roads back in 1910. Here is what we are doing to make sure we are still leading the way to safe and clear roads during Michigan's tough winters.
Largest Fleet in Michigan
Wayne County has at its disposal the largest vehicle fleet of any county in Michigan. With recent improvements, it also has the largest and most diverse snow removal fleet the County has ever had. We have approximately 160 salt trucks. Approximately 10 percent of the fleet is replaced annually, and approximately 80 percent of the working fleet is no more than 5 years old. This means less time is lost to mechanical failures. Lastly, since the County has more trucks than routes, it means that several trucks can be in for maintenance or repair without causing a single route to be missed.
Wayne County purchased this vehicle from Houghton County in the upper peninsula and is the only county in southeast Michigan to own one. Think of it as a driving snowblower. The County uses this to clear areas that plows cannot reach, or to throw snow from a freeway shoulder onto the embankment, so stalled vehicles can have safe haven on the shoulder and not tie up an active lane of traffic.
Wayne County has been a pioneer, for over 20 years, in installing Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology in its snow plow trucks. In 2011 the County updated all its snow plow trucks with a new GPS system. This new system increases the speed we collect and receive information from the trucks, information like air and pavement temperatures, how much salt is being applied, if the plow is in use, as well as vehicle speed, location and direction. Many of these data are utilized on the Countyâ€™s Compass web site. Compass is a web-based, cutting edge computer technology designed to help the motoring public better manage their commutes, especially in the winter, Commuters can access Compass and learn what major highways and surface roads were cleared by the Countyâ€™s snow plow trucks.
Real Time Video Technology
Wayne County was also the first in Michjgan to install real time video dashboard cameras in 18 of its snow plow trucks. These trucks allow operations staff to quickly view conditions from the driverâ€™s perspective and revise operational strategies as quickly as the weather changes. The video feed from these snow plow trucks can be viewed by the public on the Compass website.
The Wayne County Roads Divisionâ€™s Command Center, completed in spring 2012 and located at the Central Maintenance Road Yard, is state-of-the-art technology. The Command Center is equipped with a large video wall, multiple computer stations, video conferencing capabilities and a 24-hour call-in center. The Command Center is one of the first of its kind in Metro Detroit and in the United States. It is the final piece of a triad of integrated technologies implemented by the Wayne County Roads Division that improves overall operational efficiencies.
Because it has so many miles and types of roads to clear, the County has to prioritize its responsibilities. The two major factors in determining which roads are to be cleared first are speed limits and traffic volume. Since more vehicles and higher speeds are more likely to contribute to serious injury accidents, the roads that see the most traffic and have the highest speeds are the ones that get salted and plowed first.
The good news is that Wayne County is able to tend to all of its 462 miles (or 1,840 lane miles) of State freeways and trunklines AND all of its 728 miles (or 2,472 lane miles) of paved primary roads immediately from the beginning of a snowstorm.
In order to do this, the County has established approximately 99 individual salting/plowing routes that are addressed simultaneously from the time snow starts falling and sticking. Each driver knowing exactly where he or she is to be salting [even if it is not their normal route] allows the County to cover more than 1,100 miles of major roads in about 90 minutes. Of course, this can vary, depending on weather and traffic conditions. The effectiveness of the County's salt routes are re-evaluated each year and changes are made, when necessary, to provide improved service.
When one truck per route isnâ€™t enough
While these trucks are able to make the high-priority routes clear much faster this way, it does mean that some of the lesser traveled primary roads will not see any attention for a period of time. But once the high-priority routes are cleared, the teams can be re-deployed to plow the second tier of roads.
When enough snow falls that one truck per route is not able to effectively keep its route safe and clean, we have to reprioritize, which means consolidating more trucks onto fewer routes. Rather than having all of its routes insufficiently cleared, the County's approach will be to "Team Plow" its highest priority routes, which typically will be freeways and other state roads, as well as some of the most heavily traveled county roads.
History shows us that more than 98 percent of snow "events" that occur in Wayne County bring fewer than six inches of snow, having one truck on each route is acceptable, well, 98 percent of the time. But as we have seen in recent years, Mother Nature likes to remind us who's the boss.
IT IS THE COUNTY'S POLICY THAT WORK WILL CONTINUE AROUND THE CLOCK FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES TO CLEAR ALL OF ITS MAJOR ROADS DOWN TO BARE PAVEMENT.
Next, the sidestreets
Once all of the 4,300 lane miles of major roads are cleared and safe, workers will begin to make their way into township subdivisions - if the accumulated snow has reached sixes or more. [Unlike townships, cities have their own snow removal program]. Crews will work continuously until each of its 700-plus miles of secondary streets has been plowed. Of course, because the county's competing responsibilities mean that it may take several days to reach the subdivisions, many communities choose to hire a contractor who will be able to respond more quickly. While this surely can be disappointing to residents along these streets, the county simply does not have the resources to fund another tier of snow removal forces.
Along the county's secondary roads, the county also places a priority on school bus routes and a four-point system called the RICH system, which stands for