Snow & Ice Guidelines
Department of Public Works Winter Message
Winter storms can test the patience of Reading residents, motorists, pedestrians, and snowplow operators. The Department of Public Works is committed to keeping the streets open, the traffic moving, and returning the Town's streets and sidewalks to a safe condition as quickly as possible. The following information is designed to increase awareness about Reading's Snowplowing and Snow Removal program, and to encourage everyone's cooperation in helping us achieve that goal. The Reading DPW appreciates your patience and understanding during the winter months.
The Reading DPW maintains over 200 lane miles of roads in the community during the winter months, salting during ice and freezing rain storms, and plowing the snow off roadways during more significant storms. The Town of Reading's snow and ice plan follows clearly identified routes when removing snow and ice from streets, sidewalks and School and Town parking areas. In addition to the Town's fleet, the Department utilizes the services of local contractors. The Reading DPW strives to ensure the safest possible conditions during and after winter storm events. Plows will continue to clean, treat, and widen roadways until reasonably safe conditions are met. Please keep in mind that plows and sanders are still hard at work well after the snow has stopped falling.
- Pre-Treating Snowplowing & Salting
- Snow & Ice Control
- Sidewalk Plowing
- Fire Hydrants & Catch Basins
- Objects in the Roadway
- Snow Removal for the Downtown Area
- Trash & Recycle Collection
- Winter Sand
- Children at Play
DPW crews will be on the roadways as soon as it is necessary. Response time will depend on several factors: the moisture of the snow, timing and duration of the storm, and whether the storm has freezing rain and blowing snow. Snow has different weight and compacting properties. A fluffy, dry snow requires less salt and plowing than a heavy wet snow. Wet snow may result in very slippery conditions especially when the snow freezes on the pavement. The timing of a storm can also determine when crews will begin their cleanup. During high commuting times, crews will make every effort to keep the major roadways clear of snow and ice. Secondary and side streets will be cleared as soon as possible. Top priority will be given to the heavily traveled roads to ensure everyone's safety. Snow that falls on these roads often becomes packed by cars, making it more difficult to scrape off. During evening and early morning storms, DPW crews start early to prepare the roads for the commuting hours. The duration of the storm plays an important role in snowplowing and salting operations. Storms of extended duration require all available resources (salt, equipment, employees, and contractors) to keep roads open over an extended period of time. Four inches of snow that falls over a 24-hour period will require more salt and manpower hours than six inches of snow that falls over an 8-hour period. Motorists and pedestrians are advised to stay off the roadways until the pavement can be treated.
The Town no longer uses sand on its roadways. Generally, we pre-treat with salt, and continue to use salt during any snow event. When the temperature decreases to a point where salt is no longer effective (20 degrees) the town mixes the salt with a calcium chloride solution, which aids in the melting process. Calcium chloride outdistances traditional deicing materials to achieve safer, bare pavement, faster than salt alone. Calcium chloride melts up to eight times as much ice as does salt alone within the first 30 minutes at 20F (-7C) following application. Pre-mixed with salt, calcium chloride becomes a cost-effective edge for winter road safety.
The Reading DPW plows over 50 miles of sidewalks in Town. Town sidewalks, including sidewalks in the Downtown area, that are scheduled for plowing are done after all roads and Town facilities are cleared. Depending on the storm event, this may not occur for up to 72 hours after the storm. It is important to note that the snow plow operators who work 24 to 40 consecutive hours plowing streets are the same operators who plow sidewalks. Providing staff sufficient time to rest impacts the start of sidewalk plowing. It is important that we provide for a safe operation. Additionally, the size of the storm lengthens the amount of time it takes to plow the various sidewalk routes. Residents are more than welcome to help out DPW, if they so choose and are able, by shoveling the sidewalk in front of their property just until the sidewalk unit is able to make it to that location.
Fire hydrants and catch basins must be kept free and clear of snow and ice to ensure the safety of your neighborhood in the event of an emergency during the winter months. Catch basins must be clear of snow and ice to reduce the possibility of street flooding during heavy rains or when snow melts. The DPW needs your help to remove snow from hydrants after a heavy snowfall. Reading has over 850 fire hydrants, and since all DPW crews assist with snow and ice operations, those crews in the Water Division may be unable to remove snow from hydrants until days after the storm has ended. In the event of back-to-back storms, DPW crews may not be able to remove the snow for two to three weeks after the storms. Your assistance is important in making sure that snow is cleared from hydrants and catch basins.
Although the Reading Department of Public Works makes every effort to minimize the amount of snow that gets plowed into driveways, it is almost inevitable that this will occur. Clearing driveway openings is the responsibility of the property owner. Plow operators cannot lift the plow blades as they pass a driveway. Snow will be plowed into driveways as we perform curb-to-curb plowing. You may wish to clear your driveway several times during the storm or wait until the storm and plowing activities have ended. Please keep in mind that one of the last steps in any snow plowing operation is to push the edges back to widen the road and allow for future snow storage. This standard operation may result in the placement of windrows at the end of your driveway, which is an unfortunate and unavoidable consequence of snowplowing. Whenever possible it is best to shovel and pile snow to the right of the driveway (as you face the street) to reduce the potential of having it redeposited at the driveway opening when the plow
The Department of Public Works will repair or replace all mailboxes damaged as a result of normal snow plowing/removal operations, on a one-time basis, up to a dollar value of $75.00
If a property owner believes that his/her mailbox has been damaged by direct contact with the snowplow or sidewalk plow, he/she may report the claim to the DPW at 781-942-9092.
Mailboxes installed in the Town Right of Way are placed at the owner’s risk. Each mailbox installation should be sufficiently solid to withstand snow-clearing efforts by the Town. The DPW will not replace mailboxes that are in poor existing condition due to lack of maintenance or vandalism, or have posts that have rotted. The DPW will not replace mailboxes if the front of the box extends past the curb line and is not at least 6" to 12" back from the curb line. It will be the responsibility of the property owner to clear snow around mailboxes to ensure mail delivery by the U.S. Postal Department. The location and construction of mailboxes shall conform to the rules and regulations of the US Postal Service. Please note that any mailbox and/or post located in a Town of Reading Right of Way that is deemed by the Public Works Director to be a safety hazard or a hindrance to maintenance operations may be removed by the Town of Reading as an unauthorized encroachment under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 86 Section 3.
Many residents are not aware that their front yards do not, in most cases, extend to the edge of roadway pavement. The Town-owned layout within which the actual road itself is built is referred to as a Right of Way. Right of Way widths differ from roadway to roadway, and some roads actually have a variable width Right of Way. The Town will not be responsible for damage to any property or personal item which has been placed or left within the roadway or Town Right of Way. These items include, but are not limited to: basketball hoops, bicycles, toys, fences, walls, and irrigation systems.
In particular, between November 15 and April 1, all basketball hoops MUST be set back at least 10 feet off the edge of roadway in order to prevent damage to the Town's snow removal equipment or to not inhibit snow removal operations. We ask for your assistance in moving these personal objects referenced above from the Right of Way in order to protect your personal property and make the plow routes safer for our drivers.
Snowplows navigate many narrow streets. Illegally parked vehicles are the biggest obstacle to effective snow removal efforts. Please support our efforts by parking your vehicle in conformance with the winter parking ban. Residents are requested to avoid parking on the street to allow the snowplow to clear the street from curb-to-curb. Vehicles that violate the winter parking ban or otherwise hinder snow removal will be ticketed and towed at the owner’s expense.
If snow becomes a hazard within the Downtown area, the DPW will implement its snow removal plan. The removal will begin after the storm and may require additional days to ensure that all areas are safe for pedestrians. Removal may generally take place during non-business hours to ensure safety. Please keep in mind that the same employees who plow the streets and sidewalks, also do snow removal. In order to ensure their safety and the safety of others, snow removal may be done up to 2 or 3 nights after the storm ends.
During a storm, please do not place trash or recycling bins in the path of the plows. Ensuring that trash and recycle barrels are properly placed for roadside collection is the responsibility of each resident. Residential trash and recycling collection will only be postponed during the most severe storm events. When it is deemed necessary to postpone trash and recycling collection, the Town will utilize our automated call system, post a notice on the town’s website and use social media. In the event that trash collection is cancelled, trash will be picked up on the following day, weather permitting.
Sand for residential use is available at the DPW yard at 75 Newcrossing Road. Please be aware that this sand is for residents only and may only be taken in reasonable amounts.
Do not allow children to play on or around the street during or after a storm. In addition, please make sure that children do not build snow forts or tunnels in areas near the road, including in snow banks at driveways and cul-de-sacs. Toys and sledding areas should be kept far away from the street.