Winter Road Maintenance Practices
What are ODOT winter maintenance practices?
ODOT winter maintenance practices include plowing, sanding, and applying winter anti-icing liquids. The combination of practices used at each site may vary to accommodate the different climate, traffic, and storm conditions encountered. ODOT's goal is to provide safe roadway. However, it is always up to the motorist to drive according to conditions.
ODOT maintenance practices include:
Winter liquid products are used in several ways:
What winter anti-icing/deicing liquids are used by ODOT?
ODOT uses the following type of winter anti-icing/deicing liquid:
The anti-icing/deicing liquid used by ODOT is selected for the ability to meet the needs of Oregon’s various temperature, weather, and environmental conditions. ODOT may use other anti-icing/deicing liquid products as needed to increase efficiencies in winter maintenance operations.
Why does ODOT use winter anti-icing/deicing liquids?
ODOT uses winter anti-icing/deicing liquids as tools to improve safety, improve the efficiency of time spent plowing, and address environmental concerns resulting from other methods of snow removal. Other states that use winter anti-icing/deicing liquids have had reductions in wintertime motor vehicle crashes. Additionally, the anti-icing/deicing liquids can be cheaper than sanding and may reduce the amount of time spent plowing.
How do winter anti-icing/deicing liquids work?
Winter anti-icing/deicing liquids are applied to the road in order to lower the freezing temperature of water and to prevent ice and snow from forming a bond to the roadway surface. These products are used for:
What vehicle maintenance is recommended when driving roads treated with anti-icer/deicer liquids?
It is recommended to wash vehicles regularly. Winter maintenance anti-icers/deicers won’t crack windshields or chip paint like sand, but may leave a film on vehicles. Even though the magnesium chloride product contains a corrosion inhibitor, it still can cause corrosion. Regularly wash vehicles to remove anti-icer/deicer liquid, sanding and road dirt encountered during winter months.
To further protect vehicles it is critical to keep a safe following distance behind plows and sand and anti-icer/deicer applicator trucks. This will reduce vehicle exposure to anti-icers/deicers and falling sand and will reduce the potential for crashes.
Are ODOT practices safe for the environment?
ODOT has worked with several environmental regulatory agencies to ensure its winter maintenance program is not only cost effective, but environmentally friendly as well.
Efforts to protect the environment include:
Why doesn’t ODOT just use sand?
The use of sand does not work well under every winter roadway condition. In many cases, winter anti-icer/deicer liquids work better than sand. The anti-icers/deicers have been shown to be very effective for melting or preventing black ice. Anti-icers perform well in some freezing rain or light snow conditions. In addition, anti-icers can keep snow from firmly sticking to the pavement, and can be applied ahead of the storm, so the road is ready for traffic. Anti-icers/deicers do have limitations and are not always the best tool for the conditions.
Sand is the best tool for improving traction on packed snow and in heavy snowfall conditions, but sand requires a lot of handling. It requires repeated applications because it is easily blown off the road by traffic. In some areas, sand has to be swept up and hauled away for disposal, all of which add substantial costs. Even though ODOT has strict standards limiting the size of sanding particles, sand can chip windshields, headlights, and paint.
Both sand and winter anti-icer/deicer liquids have drawbacks, but each has strengths that, under certain conditions, make each one valuable for improving safety. However, it is always up to the motorist to drive at speeds appropriate for the road and weather conditions.
ODOT Information Sources?
For questions regarding winter road maintenance practices, contact Rick Poecker, ODOT Office of Maintenance at (503) 986-4484.
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