In consideration of public health and our environment, the City refrains from the use chemicals and geo-melts on our roadways. It is critical to keep in mind that part of our drinking water supply is located directly beneath and adjacent to City streets. Additionally, there are approximately 100 private drinking water wells situated throughout the Upper Snoqualmie Valley. We do not want to adversely impact your drinking water, and these products can also contaminate our environment. When used in large quantities, they are harmful to fish, wildlife and affect ecosystems.
The City does use a mixture of sand and salt on roadways during snow events, particularly on hilly areas like Forester Woods, some segments of priority 1 roads, roundabouts and intersections.
Our aquifer is directly below us vs. being remote like the drinking water supply of other nearby cities. That aquifer sits below many of our City roadways and feeds our Centennial Well, located beneath our Public Works facility. In contrast, Snoqualmie’s drinking water supply is located significantly outside of the City limits near the North Fork of the Snoqualmie River. While all aquifers need protection, ours is of particular concern due to its close proximity to local roadways.
The use of heavy-duty rubber-tipped blades is in consideration of the short-term and long-term condition of our City streets. Steel plow blades take both an immediate and lasting toll on our roadways, causing potholes and also cracks that can degrade our streets below the surface, often resulting in costly road repairs. Repaving roadways is very expensive – and paid by taxpayers. Using rubber blades is not unique to North Bend. Other cities use them as well. In sharp contrast are some of the WSDOT and King County DOT snowplows which have steel blades. You will notice the pavement conditions of the onramps and offramps to I-90 have taken a beating. There are many potholes out there. That’s because of the steel blades.
We have 4 snowplows, three of which are larger, to serve our geographically large City. We do not have plows the size of larger cities like Issaquah, which are hillier cities. The City has a snowplow route map, along with priority access points. You can find that HERE. Main roads like Bendigo Blvd (SR 202) and North Bend Way are considered Priority 1 routes. During heavy snow events, crews will often focus all of their attention on these roadways. When those priority 1 routes are complete, they will move to Priority 2 roads, like neighborhood collector streets, as safe staffing allows. When those are finished, drivers can move onto priority 3 roadways like neighborhood side streets.
I-90 is a regional, heavily traveled main transportation corridor, used to transport goods coast to coast. Interruptions to a main freeway like I-90 can have detrimental impacts on not just the Puget Sound region, but supply chains across our country. As such, WSDOT uses more aggressive road treatment to keep this corridor clear of snow. I-90 travel lanes do not contain concrete curbs, utility valve lids, traffic loop detectors, manhole grates, etc. In sharp contrast, a city has all of that infrastructure and more in the travel lanes. Using steel blades will damage pavement and valuable infrastructure as noted above. The City’s road treatment policy keeps local roads passable, but sometimes, not down to bare pavement like freeways that the State treats.
Yes, but keep in mind, our Public Works staff is limited, and many employees do not live locally. Thus, during snow events, many crew members work significant amounts of overtime to serve the community while also carefully monitoring conditions to safely arrive in North Bend during inclement weather. The City has added new Public Works positions in the past 5 years as our population has grown, and we are actively working to hire staff that live in or near North Bend to reduce response times when the snow starts falling.
If you’re new to North Bend, adjusting to living in a mountain town takes time. As long-term residents know, during the winter – at times - you may not be able to easily drive to work in the Bellevue/Seattle area and going east, even less so. This can be true of not just your local streets, but I-90 and state routes, too. To improve your driving experience during our Cascade foothill winters, consider AWD vehicles and winter tires and please drive in consideration of the conditions, giving yourself plenty of extra time to reach your destination.