The Bureau of Highways provides access for emergency vehicles during life-threatening individual emergencies such as birth, illness, death, fuel deliveries, or fire upon the request of either the Police Department or the Department of Fire and Rescue Services. The Chief, Bureau of Highways, or the Highway Operations Superintendents evaluates and responds to each such request in the most effective manner. If you are experiencing an emergency situation during a snow event, call 911 immediately.
The Bureau of Highways reminds drivers not to park on streets, especially on a cul-de-sac as that makes snow removal nearly impossible for highway crews. Vehicles should be parked in driveways. This allows police officers, firefighters, and paramedics to respond quickly to public safety tasks while driving in treacherous conditions and leads to quick and complete clearing of the roads. Residents may also want to delay shoveling driveway aprons and sidewalks until the street has been completely cleared. Otherwise, it is very likely a full blade of snow will slide off the plow onto the driveway.
We appreciate your patience and cooperation in our efforts to provide the best possible snow removal service to our communities.
Howard County is responsible for snow removal from approximately 3,650 roads, encompassing about 1,074 centerline miles of roadway, approximately 2,368 cul-de-sacs and approximately 518 T-intersections or dead end roads. The County has 87 designated snow removal routes, with each comprised of an average of 15 centerline miles per route.
At the beginning of the winter season, 32,500 tons of salt, 23,500 gallons of magnesium chloride and 45,000 gallons of brine stands ready to be dispersed by a fleet of more than 135 pieces of snow removal equipment equipped with automated vehicle-locating devices (plus an additional 60 pieces of contractor equipment), allowing the Bureau to see which Howard County roads have been serviced and how. You can track the progress of our snow removal equipment via the County's Snow Plower Tracker. The tracker allows residents to monitor progress across four different time frames while snow removal is underway. Residents are able to see if their street has been treated in the last four hours, between four and eight hours ago, between eight and 12 hours ago, or more than 12 hours ago. The tracker also aggregates highway traffic camera views, weather alerts and real-time traffic information into the display, providing residents with a one-stop shop for storm recovery information.
In addition, for general information concerning the Bureau's maintenance efforts during a winter weather event, contact the Citizen Information Hotline at 410-313-2900, email [email protected] and/or follow the Howard County Government Facebook page or Twitter handle.
When ice and/or snow endanger the safety of the traveling public, many factors are considered as County workers decide how to best manage the various winter driving conditions. Variables included in these decisions are the amount of snowfall, the duration and intensity of the storm, the meteorological parameters of temperature, humidity and wind force, and the availability of material, manpower, and equipment. Through careful analysis and by interfacing these factors, the men and women of the Bureau of Highways provide the maximum level of service possible to the residents of Howard County.
The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) is responsible for all the work and maintenance on interstate highways and on roads that have a route number (such as US 40, US 29, MD 32, MD 175, etc.). For an intersection that includes a state and county road, the state takes precedence and has jurisdiction. In Howard County, the SHA can be contacted at the Dayton office at 410-531-5533, or 1-800-635-5119, or online at www.roads.maryland.gov.
At the beginning of a storm, de-icing materials are spread first to prevent the bonding of snow or ice to the road surface. Then, depending on the intensity of the storm, plowing operations follow.
The County's 3,650-road system is divided into a series of routes with a truck and operator assigned to each. Roads within those routes are prioritized for service into three categories: primary (Category A), secondary (Category B) and residential (Category C). Primary and secondary roads receive the first service to ensure that public safety vehicles can provide service to residents. Drivers then concentrate their efforts on local residential roads. All County roads are serviced before the Bureau halts its efforts.
The Bureau of Highways operates under a three-tiered level of response. The level of effort is determined by the various elements of the storm.
Level I: Only Primary (Category A) roads are serviced in order to maintain critical services such as fire, ambulance, or police. At this level, inconvenience to the traveling public is likely.
Level II: Only Primary (Category A) and Secondary (Category B) roads are serviced. This could cause minor inconvenience. However, for the most part, the public is not adversely affected.
Level III: All County roads (Categories A, B, & C) are serviced with little or no inconvenience to the traveling public.
During a typical snowstorm of six to 12", the County's goal is to have the entire County Road System cleared within 12 to 18 hours after the storm ends. All County roads are serviced before the Bureau halts its efforts. That system comprises existing dedicated and accepted roads, prescribed County-owned facilities or other areas or roads formally identified by the Director of Public Works. The Bureau is only responsible for the removal of ice and/or snow from roads within this designation.
Howard County does not maintain any sidewalks, including snow removal, with exception of the sidewalks adjacent to County buildings (libraries, offices, etc.). The owner of property abutting a sidewalk in a public right-of-way is responsible for removing snow from the sidewalk within 48 hours after the snow has fallen. In the event of a multi-unit building with more than one occupant, it shall be the duty of the lessor to remove the snow unless the lessor has obligated a tenant who is actually occupying the property to do so. (See Howard County Code, Section 18.402(h)(1).) This applies to public streets and is applicable to sidewalks adjacent to public property. However, per Section 18.402(h)(2), if the County Executive declares a state of emergency under Section 6.103 of the County Code, the County Executive may extend the time to remove snow.
If a property owner has not removed the snow within the allotted time frame, you may want to contact the property owner and advise him or her of the County Code. If you are unsure who owns a property, contact our Real Estate Services Division at 410-313-2330. If you have an exact address, they can look up the property owner and may be able to give you a contact name and number.
Another idea is to reach out and ask the property owner if he or she needs assistance. Although the property owner might like to comply with the law, many residents are physically unable to shovel snow and ice and are hesitant to request help from neighbors or friends. Your thoughtfulness can make a big difference to someone who might otherwise be unable to cope.
As a last resort, to file a complaint, contact the Howard County Police Department at 410-313-2200.
Portable basketball hoops placed on residential streets create road hazards during snow storms. The Bureau of Highways has experienced severe damage to plows and other snow removal equipment due to portable and permanent basketball hoops placed on county right of way.
Here are three sound reasons to remove basketball hoops and other structures from county right-of-way:
- Obstructions on county roads is illegal under Howard County Code Sec. 18.205 and is subject to a fine up to $1,000, imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.
- Structures hidden under snow on county roads can cause damage to snow plows and other county snow removal equipment.
- Basketball hoops and other structures are often damaged by county snow equipment and also could pose a safety hazard to other motorists traveling during weather events. Damaged items that are obstructing the county right-of-way will not be replaced or owner reimbursed by Howard County.
The County right-of-way is typically 10' to 12' back from the face of the curb. Basketball apparatus' should not be placed in the public roadway or County right-of-way; instead, they should be placed so that individuals using it will be playing on a driveway or lawn.
All requests or inquiries for installation of private structures within County right-of-way or easements should be directed to the Director of Public Works in writing to: Department of Public Works, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, Maryland 21043.
Violation of obstructions should be reported to the Bureau of Highways either by phone at 410-313-7450 or via email at [email protected]. Homeowners will be notified to remove the obstruction within two weeks or it will be removed and disposed of by county crews.
Howard County’s Department of Public Works makes every effort to plow and salt County roads quickly and safely during all winter weather emergencies. Because of the road conditions during inclement weather, some property damage is unavoidable. The following represents the County’s policy for handling claims for damage to property resulting from the County’s snow removal activities.
I. Property located within the County right of way.
1. County law permits mailboxes to be placed in the County right of way.
2. If a mailbox that conforms to County law is damaged as a result of physical contact of a snowplow or other piece of snow removal equipment, the County will reimburse the homeowner for actual costs based upon the predetermined maximum value ($75) of a standard issue mailbox, mailbox post, or associated item. Homeowners who have an ornamental or decorative mailbox in the County right of way do so at their own risk: The County will not replace or pay for damage to a non-standard mailbox, e.g.; ornamental, that is located within the County right of way. Installation costs that the homeowner chooses to incur will not be reimbursed.
3. If a mailbox, mailbox post, or associated item is damaged as a result of the weight or impact of snow and ice being moved by a County snowplow, but there has been no physical contact with the mailbox, mailbox post, or associated item by a piece of County equipment, the County will not assume responsibility for the cost of repair or replacement of the mailbox, mailbox post, or associated item.
B. Other Structures
1.On occasion, structures other than mailboxes may be placed within the County right of way by permit obtained in conformity with the County Code.
2. Claims for damage to structures that are permitted to be located in the County right of way and that are built in conformity with the permit will be handled in the same way as claims for damage to mailboxes:
a. Unless otherwise stated in a written agreement with the property owner, the County will pay the cost of repair or replacement if there has been physical contact with the structure.
b. The County will not pay for damage caused by the movement of show or ice.
3. The County assumes no responsibility for damage caused by non-permitted structures located within the County right of way.
1. Many property owners plant and seed within the County right of way adjoining their property. In the ordinary course of removing snow from County roads, damage to this kind of landscaping will occur – from movement of snow and ice, from contact with the equipment, and from salting.
2. The County does not assume responsibility for damage to plantings that have been done in the County right of way.
3. The County’s Department of Public Works does maintain the right of way, the Department will repair damage to seeded areas in accordance with its procedures. The County will not, however, pay for any repair or replacement work in the right of way by the owner of private property adjoining or adjacent to the right of way.
II. Private Property
Snow removal activities do not usually cause damage to private property adjoining the roads that the County plows, that is, property outside the County’s right of way.
Any claim that property located outside the County right of way was damaged as a result of the County’s snow removal operations will be investigated, and liability will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
III. Parked Vehicles
Snow removal involves the operation of very large vehicles during extreme weather conditions and time pressures. Although our operators make every attempt to avoid it, occasionally parked vehicles will be accidentally struck by snow removal equipment.
State law prohibits parking vehicles on any roadway that is designated and appropriately posted as a Snow Emergency Route when a snow emergency is declared and is in effect. The County will not pay for the repair of any parked vehicle which is struck by snow removal equipment on an emergency route when a snow emergency is in effect.
If you believe injury or damage to your property was caused by a County employee or involved a County-owned vehicle or property, please fill out and submit the Citizen Report Form for County-Related Incident to Howard County Office of Risk Management, 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Box 303, Columbia, MD 21046. Property owners are asked to please make sure to take pictures of the damage, if possible, before the snow melts, and include them with your report form, so that the Office of Risk Management can make an accurate assessment.
The Roadway Maintenance Division of the Bureau of Highways is responsible for snow removal and operates out of three separate shops- Cooksville West Zone, Dayton Central Zone, Mayfield East Zone. Plowing is done on the basis of priority depending on the type of snow event. During a typical snowstorm, it takes approximately 24 to 36 hours to complete service to the entire County Road System. If there is a genuine emergency during a snow event, please contact the Police Department for immediate assistance.
Contact the Bureau of Highways at 410-313-7450 and the Highways staff can assess the damage and work with you to determine a solution. In many cases, after assessment by the Bureau of Highways, the concern will be forwarded to the Risk Management Department for a final resolution. Residents can also fill out and send in a Claim Form.