Winter Road Maintenace
Winter maintenance activities include applying salt and sand, as well as plowing snow on roads and shoulders. During a typical year, the Road Commission will respond to approximately 50 winter maintenance callouts, and will use about 20,000 to 25,000 tons of salt, and 14,000 to 18,000 tons of sand. The cost of winter maintenance can easily be up to $3.7 million annually, depending upon inclement weather conditions and the duration of the winter months.
A policy was developed to provide cost effective winter maintenance operations and to inform the public about the level of winter maintenance services for roadways maintained by the Road Commission. Winter maintenance operations are conducted in accordance with the established priority system based on traffic volumes, road classification, and location. The priorities are as follows:
1 – State Trunklines
2 – Multi-lane Primary Roads
3 – Primary Roads
4 – Local Paved Roads
5 – Subdivision Streets
6 – Local Gravel Roads
7 – Dead End Streets and Cul-de-sacs
If a mailbox is damaged by Road Commission equipment or snow thrown from Road Commission equipment during winter maintenance operations, the property owner may receive a new standard mailbox and/or a single 4”x4” wood post at one of the garage locations.
The property owner is responsible to remove the damaged mailbox/post and to install the replacement mailbox/post.
The locations are open Monday through Friday, except on holidays or observed holidays established by the Board. Appointments are made between the hours of 7:30AM and 3:30PM. Please call (616) 842-5400 for an appointment.
The property owner shall provide either the actual damaged mailbox/post or a photo of the actual damaged mailbox/post before a new standard mailbox and/or a single 4”x4” wood post can be issued. Upon receipt of a new mailbox and/or post, the property owner shall sign a register and provide the property address.
Homeowners should be aware that shoveling or plowing snow from driveways onto or across roads is illegal (Act 82 of 1978, vehicle code 257.677A) because it can present a serious traffic hazard to motorists.
Instead, pile the snow behind the curb or shoulder on your side of the road. Be sure to place snow to the right as you face the road, so plows will push it away from, rather back into, the driveway entrance. It is also important to avoid vision obstructions. Care should be taken not to impede the flow of storm water from melting snow in the ditches or culverts.
Citizens should also make certain that their trash containers are not placed too close to the edge of the road before snow removal has taken place.
Putting salt on the road surface prior to a snowfall generally will waste time and money. Salt will not adhere to a dry road during application and the portion that manages to land in the right location is subject to wind or traffic which blows or pushes it off the road before it can do its job.
Salt is most effective after snow has accumulated and the temperature is 20° Fahrenheit or higher. Under these conditions, the salt and snow will mix, melting snow into a slush that can be plowed off the pavement. (This melting action generally occurs within two hours, less if traffic is present.)
If the temperature is below 20°F, the salt will have difficulty melting thesnow and ice, so other methods are typically used.
Abrasives (like sand) are often put down for traction. Calcium chloride or other liquid treatments can be added to enhance the ability to melt the ice and snow.
The Road Commission may change the mixture of salt and additives based on the ground temperature.
Even while the air and road surface temperatures drop, the heat underneath the road keeps it warm enough to delay icing as temperatures drop below freezing.
Bridges have no way to trap heat and are exposed to cold air on all sides, so they continually lose heat and freeze shortly after air temperatures hit the freezing point.
A bridge will follow the air temperature very closely. If the air temperature falls below freezing, a bridge’s surface will fall below freezing very quickly causing rain or snow to freeze and stick to the road surface.
The Road Commission will place liquid anti-icing materials on bridge surfaces when the temperatures are expected to be between 15°F and 35°F. If the surface is wet, then a 60/40 salt to sand mixture is treated with the liquid material (called pre-wetting) and then placed on the bridge surface.
Once applied, both treatments can last up to 72 hours.
There are no state laws that prohibit passing a snowplow. However, the action of passing can be extremely dangerous because pavement conditions vary across the path taken to pass. Snowplows may be equipped with wing plow blades that can extend anywhere between 2 and 10 feet beyond the width of the truck. This wing plow blade is often not seen because of the snow cloud being kicked up by the snowplow. These wing plows can often weigh as much as a compact car.
The Road Commission installs wooden stakes to mark the edge of pavement prior to the first snow event. The stakes are typically installed at intersections or curves that are difficult for the snow plow drivers to judge. These stakes may break off after a couple of plowing operations, but they do serve a purpose in establishing appropriate plowing limits.
Recognizing that property owners may be concerned with possible parkway damage resulting from our snow removal activities, the Road Commission approves on a seasonal basis, installation of snow plow markers within the right-of-way by abutting property owners. Typically the markers should be placed a minimum of 2’ from the pavement edge and never closer than area mail box supports. The markers should consist of an aluminum support and reflector commonly available at hardware stores, or wooden stakes not larger than 1”x2”x30” high. The top 9” of the wooden stakes should be covered with fluorescent orange paint for visibility. Maintenance of the markers and their spring time removal is the property owner’s responsibility.