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Posted on: March 6, 2019

Engineer Opinion on Private Snow Removal

Snow Removal Pickup Truck

OPINION ON PRIVATE SNOW REMOVAL

What is the difference between a private citizen or company maintaining the rock on a gravel road and that same citizen or company moving the snow off a gravel road?


Work in the Right-of-Way Permit

My first thought was to the entire basis of Work in the Right-of-Way Permits. Every county has them because the State of Iowa has deemed the County Secondary Roads Department as responsible for the public roadways.  The permits all have the same message, that a permit is needed for anything involving physical change to the county right-of-way.

Moving the rock around could be construed as making a physical change, while not as significant as digging up the dirt; but the main point of the permit is to move the liability away from the county. The permit would make the permit holder responsible for anything that could occur during or after the work, if the work itself was the cause of the issue. The liability of moving the snow would more likely fall back on their personal vehicle insurance.

The county does not have a habit of turning down these permits. As long as the job seems necessary, and their previous work has been acceptable; the county has no reason to deny a permit.

Granular Material Costs

In the last five years Hardin County had paid local quarries $3,736,119.03 for granular material. It would be in the county’s best interest to protect that investment as much as possible. While moving snow can catch the top layer of rock and move it, possibly into the ditch, the roadway is not seriously altered while the road is frozen. I would assume that any private citizen or company moving the snow would not clear the entire roadway, just a single travel lane, therefore the rock would most likely never leave the roadway width.  

Hardin County did not purchase the snow left on the roadway, so we should be less inclined to protect it.

Conclusion

Maintaining a comfortable driving surface during the summer and moving snow off the roadway are not comparable. The former involves altering a material that has been purchased with taxpayer money, while the latter is altering a material deposited by nature.


Taylor Roll, P.E.
Hardin County Engineer


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