ASK YOUR GOVERNMENT: When should a highway close? N.D. and Minnesota differ
Each week, Herald reporter Charly Haley answers your questions about local government, laws and other local topics.
Q. How does the North Dakota Department of Transportation determine when to close roads during blizzards? During this season's first blizzard, Anita, I could barely see the fence in my yard, 30-some feet away. And U.S. Highway 2, about a block further, hadn't been seen for an hour or more from my window. Every time I looked at the NDDoT online, it listed all the roads up here as "travel not advised." In Minnesota, U.S. Highway 2 was closed from East Grand Forks to Crookston, and part of U.S. Highway 75 was also closed. I don't understand why the highway wasn't shut down in North Dakota.
A. North Dakota state law says it's up to the highway patrol or local law enforcement authorities to decide if a road should close temporarily because of hazardous conditions, according to NDDoT spokeswoman Jamie Olson.
NDDoT and law enforcement work together on the decision and informing the public, Olson said.
Predicting the severity and path of a storm or the impacts it may have on motorists is very difficult, as conditions can quickly change, Olson said. Storms may affect some areas different than others, and the decisions to close roads are made on a case-by-case basis for the safety of the public.
NDDoT equipment operators work hard to keep roads open for travel, Olson said. But some winter weather conditions can be so severe that that is not possible, and the road must close.
Q. According to Grand Forks City Code, it's not just homeowners, but all owners/occupants that must clear snow from sidewalks adjacent to their property. If this is true, should we start complaining about businesses that fail to clear their sidewalks so the city can clear them and charge the $1 per foot fee? Also, which sidewalks would be excluded from this requirement and be the responsibility of the city?
A. All businesses in town are governed by the Grand Forks City Code, said Kevin Dean, city spokesman. This means the city will clear sidewalks of snow that are adjacent to businesses and bill the property owner, just like is done for residential property.
In some instances, snow will build up on sidewalks that are near city streets -- along Washington Street is a good example -- and those properties will not be billed for snow removal because when the streets are cleared of snow by city plows, the snow ends up on the sidewalks, Dean said. The city will clear off that snow from those sidewalks as soon as possible after the snow falls and the roads are plowed.
Also, the city owns some property that has sidewalks, which are the responsibility of the city to maintain. Those are also cleared of snow as soon as possible after a snowstorm.
Call Haley at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1102; or send email to email@example.com.