In the winter months, Skowhegan Highway Department maintains approximately 100 miles of public roads. We divide these miles into 11 plow routes, which include four parking lots.
When a Storm Begins
For nighttime and weekend storms we rely on the Police Department to call our on-call Foreman when road conditions deteriorate. When a snowstorm (or freezing rain) begins, nine of our plow units also have sanders. We start work by first sanding or salting the major arteries (Madison Avenue, North Avenue, Water Street, Waterville Road, West Front Street), and then the in-town streets and collector roads. Our goal is to keep the roads as safe as possible and try to keep snow or ice from bonding and packing to the pavement.
As the Storm Continues
When two to three inches of snow accumulates we call the sander trucks back in and hook up their plows, mobilize the rest of our plow units, and begin plowing the roads. Again, we concentrate on the main arteries followed by the side streets, our goal being to keep the travel lanes open. We will continue plowing the routes until the storm subsides and then go back over all routes to widen-out the roadways and clean up at the intersections. It is our policy to clear the shoulder -approximately 4′ beyond the edge of pavement. The town has several dead-end roads that we must plow out, and this adds to our plow time. It will take us 3 to 4 hours to complete a typical plow route so for intense storms a significant accumulation can develop in the roadways while we are plowing – be prepared.
The below diagram shows how your driveway can be initially cleared to reduce the possibility that after the plow passes you will be snow-bound again. We suggest that you clear your driveway in this manner, shoveling snow in the direction of traffic and clearing a “pocket” next to your driveway as shown; snow accumulation on the plow will drop into that pocket and the amount that goes into the driveway opening will be minimized.
After the Storm
The first night following when the storm stops and we clear all the roads we will then remove the plows and return once again to sand or salt all areas. On Water Street, Island Avenue, Commercial Street, parts of Madison Avenue and North Avenue we clear the sidewalks and windrow the snow into the center of this wide street and remove the snow from the downtown. Skowhegan has 24 miles of sidewalks, and once the storm diminishes we concentrate on opening them up. We first do the downtown area and the school zones and then work our way to all other areas. We have one sidewalk tractor for plowing and blowing snow; it will take us 2 to 3 days to get to all the walks we do. On narrow streets we often cannot clear the walks until we can remove the street snow so the walks may be unavailable for a week or more.
We must do the downtown area and the parking lots every storm, and try to rotate which side streets get done as it takes at least 2 - 3 weeks to remove snow from all the in-town side streets, and we often get another storm before we can remove snow from the entire route.
How You Can Help
- Make certain your vehicle is ready for winter driving and do not drive in winter storms unless absolutely necessary.
- Reduce your speed. This is the #1 cause of winter accidents.
- Please do not park in the roadway or shoulder area during a storm. Our plows must be able to clear the area the first time through without having to return to clean it up later. Remember, emergency parking bans are typically declared during a snow event or the night after so we can do clean up. If you park on street during a parking ban your car will be ticketed and towed at your expense. Also, please do not place any rocks, marker posts or similar obstructions within 6 feet of the road edge. We need to plow out this area for drainage and space to put snow from future storms.
- Do not shovel, snow-blow or have your driveway plowed into or across the road. This is prohibited by law and can cause a serious traffic hazard. If possible, it is best to place snow on the side of your driveway opposite the direction from which the plow is coming. That way, the plow will push snow away from your driveway rather than back into it.
- If possible, wait until the highway has been plowed before cleaning out the end of your driveway. There is no practical way to plow the highway without depositing snow into your driveway. Please understand the Town cannot go back and shovel or plow out the end of any private driveway.
- Help reduce the possibility of a broken mailbox post. All our plow operators are urged to take precautions to avoid hitting mailbox posts. However, experience has shown that with reduced visibility during a storm it is not always possible for a driver to see a post in time to avoid striking it with the wing of the plow. Any installation within the highway right-of-way, including a mailbox, is placed there at the owner’s risk. Therefore, owners are encouraged to put mailboxes at the maximum usable distance back from the roadway pavement and we recommend a 42″ mounting height with reflectors on the post. For more details, please see our printable mailbox information. Posts should also be checked for deterioration or rot to reduce the possibility of their being broken off simply by the weight of plowed snow.
- Skowhegan Highway does not have a dispatcher on duty except during normal workdays from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. please call 207-474-6911. During a bad storm please only call when absolutely necessary. For emergencies you may also contact the Police Department.
- Don’t be misled by plow trucks riding with their plows up. They may be going in for fuel or repairs or headed for another area. Skowhegan Highway maintains all roads in Skowhegan, except those maintained by the Maine Department of Transportation: Route 2, Route 201, and Route 150 outside the compact lines. Please call MDOT at 207-562-4228 (Dixfield office) to report a problem with these roads.
- Finally, please be patient. Whether it is your driveway for which you are responsible or the 100 road miles that the Town is responsible for, snow removal is an arduous and time consuming job. If a storm is of long duration, understand that we are a small organization with limited reserves and our workers continue around the clock until the job is done. We strive for the safest streets and roads at a reasonable cost in the shortest period of time.
- Winter Road Closing Information
The Skowhegan Town Council has authorized the annual closing of certain town ways to any vehicle or combination of vehicles registered for a gross weight of over 23,000 pounds. Certain Town roads are posted annually to protect the roads from heavy truck traffic during early spring conditions when the roadbed first begins to thaw out and the base remains saturated with water and unable to support the wheel loads. Posting is required to prevent significant damage to the road pavement.
The road postings have historically been from about March 1 until no later than May 15th over the past 15 years. If you are planning to build a house starting in late winter you should check to see if the road giving access to your property is typically posted. Although permits are issued occasionally they are not issued to allow new construction of a home or addition. If your property’s only access is via a posted road you should plan to start the project at the end of April and not late winter or early spring.
Penalties and Exemptions
Any violation of the rules is a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not less than $250. Certain vehicles, such as public utility, emergency, school buses, heating fuel trucks (operating in accordance with a permit issued by the Maine Department of Transportation) are exempt, and for any other heavy vehicle there is a permit process for requesting special permission to travel on these roads. For further information please contact the Skowhegan Highway Department at 474-6911.