City gets grip on ice woes |

City gets grip on ice woes

Janet Urquhart

Aspen’s streets department may have found the key to clearing ice off the streets with its pricey de-icer, CMAK: Don’t use it.

Street crews eschewed use of CMAK altogether during Sunday night’s snowstorm. Instead, crews plowed and spread sodium acetate on key streets. The approach seemed to work, said Jerry Nye, acting streets superintendent.

“I think it worked better than CMAK for sure,” he said. “I went out and drove it – it seemed to be giving pretty good traction.”

The streets department has been experimenting with alternatives to magnesium chloride, a cheap and highly effective de-icer that the City Council has decided not to use, fearing its potential health and environmental effects.

Instead, Nye and his crew had been trying to make CMAK, a combination of calcium magnesium acetate and potassium acetate, work. Though Nye experimented with different concentrations of the mixture, the de-icer did little to prevent the buildup of ice after past storms.

On Sunday, crews plowed and then spread straight sodium acetate – a pellet they normally mix with gravel for use at intersections and other trouble spots. The department had hoped to spread the pellets before the snow accumulated, but it piled up so quickly, crews plowed first and then spread the de-icer.

The department uses a de-icer on 12.5 miles of city streets, including Highway 82 through town and the bus routes. Other streets receive a simple plowing.

While the sodium acetate appeared to work well, using it instead of CMAK probably won’t save the city any money, Nye said. The pellets cost $1,087 per bag and the city uses 2.5 bags to cover the 12.5 miles, he said.

Last month, Nye told the City Council it would probably cost some $250,000 to use CMAK this winter, compared to about $4,000 for magnesium chloride.

With the driving lanes fairly ice-free, street crews are now tackling a perennial post-snowstorm headache – the parking areas along the edge of residential streets. Many stretches are clogged with snow because they are never completely free of vehicles and crews can’t run a plow blade along the length of the block.

As a result, motorists looking to parallel park along the streets face the daunting challenge of climbing a considerable mound of snow and ice.

That should change, Nye said, when the city begins a new rotation of plowing in residential areas. Nye is waiting for the needed signs to arrive. He hopes to receive them this week, he said.

A sign will be posted in each block of the residential areas, notifying motorists that one side of the street is closed off to parking from 7 a.m. to noon one day of the week. That will give crews a chance to clear out snow along the curbs in the winter and sweep in the summer, Nye said.

The so-called compass plan will close off one side of the streets once a week – north sides on Monday mornings, for example.

“That way, the whole street can get cleaned up,” Nye said.

Motorists won’t face parking tickets or towed vehicles right away, though, if they fail to move their vehicle off streets designated for cleaning on a particular day.

The city will give folks ample time to get used to the system, and Nye expects residents to warm up to the improved plowing that crews will be able to accomplish along the curbs.

“We’re gonna work with people. I think people will be pleased,” he said.

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