Effective January 8th, state’s frozen road law will expand to include the entire state

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MILWAUKEE — According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, recent cold temperatures mean that effective Sunday, January 8th at 12:01 a.m., the state’s frozen road law will expand to include the entire state.

The frozen road declaration applies to all numbered state and federal highways, but does not apply to Interstate highways except for portions of I-39 and I-41 as specified in state law (348.01(2)(bc) and (bd).

Regions designated by WisDOT as Zones 1 and 2 in northern Wisconsin were declared frozen last month. Beginning Sunday, the declaration expands statewide to include Zones 3, 4 and 5.

The frozen road law allows heavier loads for trucks carrying peeled or unpeeled forest products cut crosswise (not including woodchips), and salt and sand for winter maintenance until approximately early March, unless thawing necessitates an earlier cancellation of the provision or continued cold weather allows for an extension of the declaration period.

The declaration is issued once the ground under highway pavement is frozen to a depth of at least 18-inches, allowing the maximum gross weight for trucks hauling logs or salt and sand for maintaining roads in winter to go up to 98,000 pounds on vehicles with a minimum of five axles (from the normal 80,000 pounds).

According to a press release, special permits for hauling the increased weights are not required, however, vehicles must be legally licensed at 80,000 pounds to handle the increased weights. The higher weight limits do not apply to county or local roads unless authorized by the local agency having maintenance authority. Also, higher weights may not be transported on any highways or bridges specifically posted for lower weight limits.

WisDOT and county highway personnel monitor temperature forecasts, along with frost tubes—liquid-filled devices under pavement—to help determine when roads are adequately frozen to accommodate heavier loads.

Further information on the frozen road law can be found on the WisDOT website and by checking a recorded message on the Frozen Road Hotline at (608) 266-8417.

Haulers with specific questions can contact WisDOT’s Oversize/Overweight Permits Unit at (608) 266-7320. Also, a video explaining the frozen road law and role of frost tubes can be found on WisDOT’s YouTube site.