It's Almost Back to School Time! Elbert County's Road & Bridge Department is Prepared

Can you ever remember having a school snow delay during the last week of school? Well, that’s what happened in Elbert County on May 21, 2019. After 11 inches of snow fell in parts of the Elizabeth School District that morning, district staff who were driving bus routes at 3:00 a.m. discovered that snowplows operated by Elbert County Road and Bridge employees had cleared most of the main arterial roads and many of the secondary roads.

In June, Doug Bissonette, Elizabeth School’s Superintendent sent a letter to the Elbert County Board of County Commissioners complimenting the work of the dedicated crews. “Because of the work of the Road and Bridge Department to clear so many of the main roads, and key secondary roads, Elizabeth Schools was able to get all buses to school within 5 minutes of the delayed start time and to begin school at the re-scheduled time of 9:00 a.m.”

It’s not just snow that’s challenging for school buses, though. When the weather is wet, as it has been so far this spring and summer, mud is an even bigger problem on many of the County’s gravel roads. And while the Road and Bridge Department is hard at work repairing and maintaining over 1,000 miles of gravel roads, there are still many County roads that are in poor condition and susceptible to washing out or becoming impassable when it rains or snows.

Recently, the County has prioritized gravel operations to focus on school bus routes in recent years, and is starting to see results. Please know the quality of the roads you travel on frequently, and plan ahead if you need to travel when wet weather is expected.

What are the County’s snow removal policies?

During inclement weather, snow removal is a hot topic. The Road and Bridge Department has established a snow removal system that is efficient and effective, and takes into account traffic movement and safety, emergency response needs, budgets, special community needs (such as students who ride the bus!) and snowfall levels.
• Priority 1: Arterial Roadways. These form a network, which must be kept open to provide access to fire and law enforcement.
• Priority 2: Collector Streets. These are the roads that lead to the arterial thoroughfares. They carry lower traffic volumes, so they have a lower priority than arterials.
• Priority 3: Local Roads. Neighborhood streets and cul-de-sacs within subdivisions provide access to collectors and arterials and carry medium volume traffic.

What happens when it starts snowing?

Plowing and sanding operations begin on Priority 1 roadways when snow or ice starts to accumulate. Roads are plowed to the inside or outside, depending upon snowfall and conditions. Crews then move to Priority 2 roads, and plowed roads are widened and cleaned up after Priority 2 roadways have been made accessible. Priority 3 roads are addressed depending on the severity of the storm, availability of crews, and other project priorities.

At times, the Elbert County Sheriff's Office and the Elbert County Office of Emergency Management have requested that vehicles stay off county roads due to extreme conditions. Even in “less than blizzard” conditions, it’s always a good idea to limit your driving to allow plows and sanders to clear and treat the roads more quickly.