Winter Maintenance

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.

Snow Removal Operations
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
Winter Maintenance Operations Policy

Salt Management Plan

Mailbox Damage
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.

Potholes
Over time roadways deteriorate and develop cracks and other defects. Snow and moisture pass through the cracks and seep into the underlying gravel base and sub-soils. The cold weather causes freezing and expansion of the moist gravel and sub-soils. As a result, the asphalt surface rises up in places in the road. This is called frost heave.

In the spring, the temperature begins to rise, the ground thaws, and the gravel and sub-soils settle leaving air pockets under the pavement. Vehicles driving over the air pockets and weakened pavement force the asphalt surface to collapse, creating a pothole.

The Road Commission utilizes two methods to patch potholes.

The first, Cold Patch, also known as cold asphalt, is the most common method to fill potholes because it can be applied right from the truck without heating. Cold patch also does not require any special heavy rolling machines or special applicators as it can be shoveled into the pothole.

Cold patch is not dependent upon warm weather. Road crews like cold patch because it retains its pliable properties when the temperature drops, so it can be used year round.

The second, Dura Patch, is a method that utilizes specialized equipment to patch potholes instead of workers with shovels, tampers and cold patch. The Dura Patch system cleans the area with compressed air, applies a tack coat, sprays the emulsion/ aggregate mix into the pothole with sufficient force to compact the material as it is applied, and then follows with dry aggregate to prevent lifting.

Dura patch is dependent upon warmer weather and is typically only used in the late spring, summer, and early fall months.

If you notice a pothole, please contact our office at 616-842-5400 to report the pothole location or utilize our online service request form.

Dead Animal Disposal
The responsibility for picking up and disposing of dead animals has been a long-running debate. Surprisingly, there is no statutory requirement for any agency in Michigan to perform this service.

Animal control authorities and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDRE) have both stated they have no authority on the issue. Citizens usually call the local road agency to pick up the dead animals. While most road agencies will not dispose of the dead animals, they will move the carcasses that pose a hazard to motorists off the traveled portion of the road.

Over the years, the Road Commission has picked up and disposed of dead animals as a courtesy service for the public. However, costs and budget constraints have limited this service to just one day a week, and typically only dead deer will be picked up from the road right-of-way.

To inquire about dead dear disposal, please contact our office at 616-842-5400 or utilize our online service request form

State regulations regarding the disposal of dead animals can be very confusing. For more information on dead domestic and wild animal disposal, please contact the Ottawa County Health Department at 616-396-5266.

Winter Safety Tips
State law prohibits residents or businesses from plowing snow, ice, or slush onto or across roadways or highways. In addition, snow must not be piled to obstruct motorists’ vision. Snowplows operate by pushing snow to the right. So when clearing your driveway, pile snow to the right of your driveway (as you face the road), keeping road shoulders clear; this will help reduce the amount of snow pushed into or in front of your driveway.

  • Be sure your windshield is clear of ice and snow, washer fluids are full, tires have proper air pressure and tread, and your vehicle is equipped with essential emergency equipment.
  • Posted speeds are for ideal road conditions. Michigan law requires motorists to drive at a “careful and prudent speed” in all conditions. Reduce speeds and increase following distances.
  • Accelerate and brake slowly and avoid over-steering.
  • Brake carefully, applying constant pressure (don’t pump anti-lock brakes).
  • Beware of ice patches and “black ice”. Bridges and overpasses freeze first.
  • If your vehicle becomes disabled, be sure to use flashers and mark the vehicle so that it can be seen clearly by passing vehicles and snow plows; if it becomes necessary to abandon the vehicle call”911” to indicate the location of the vehicle.
  • Avoid distractions such as talking on your cell or texting.
  • Always wear your safety belt and ensure that all passengers are properly buckled, and children are in appropriate child-restraints.
  • Do not attempt to pass snow plow vehicles while they are plowing. Never attempt to pass a snow plow on the right.
  • Do not crowd the plow! Plow drivers have limited visibility and they cannot see directly behind their trucks.
    Please be aware that snow plow trucks may back up at intersections.

CRA Winter Maintenance Tips

Winter Maintenance FAQs

Which roads are plowed first?

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 call outs 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 $3.1 million annually, depending upon inclement weather conditions and the duration of the winter months.

Our Winter Maintenance Operations Policy was crafted 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

What do I do if my mailbox is damaged?

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.

Mailbox Damage & Replacement Policy

What should I keep in mind when shoveling/plowing driveways?

Homeowners are responsible for removing snow in front of their driveways.

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 stormwater 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, and should also know that it is the responsibility of the property owner to keep areas in front of mailboxes clear for mail delivery.

Can salt be put on roads and bridges before it snows?

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 the snow 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.

Why do bridges and overpasses freeze before the surface of the road?

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.

Is it legal to pass a snowplow?

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.

Why does the Road Commission place wooden stakes on some streets before winter?

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.

Residents may stake their yards, but sometimes, property damage occurs when plows are operating.

The Road Commission does not assume liability for any damage to obstacles placed within the right of way. This includes, but isn’t limited to, decorative fencing, landscaping, and sprinklers.

If possible, remove these items or mark them clearly to aid snow plow drivers.

Right of way lawn damage is repaired in the spring.

Note: The placement of metal stakes along the road right of way is always prohibited.

Sod on my property was damaged by a snow plow, what do I do?

Despite best efforts, sod along the edge of the road (within the right of way) occasionally may be damaged during snow removal activities.

In general, OCRC will repair lawn damage by a snow plow or truck in the right of way portion of the road during the spring. Residents who experience this damage are asked to contact the Road Commission by phone at 616-842-5400 or submit an online service request.