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DOT asks county highway departments to conserve road salt

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) issued revised guidelines to county highway departments on Wednesday, March 5th aimed at keeping state and federal highways safe for winter travel, while helping ensure an adequate supply of road salt for the remainder of this winter.

Salt supplies are low -- and the WisDOT supplies the salt. But contracts with county highway departments do the plowing and salting on the state highway system.

Now, WisDOT is saying keep up the level of service on interstate highways, but...

"We’re suggesting is some of the other highways say, like a 164, highway 83, different highways like that in areas of 38 and 31 — that they use a little lower level of salt, reduced by about a third to help extend out the supplies that we have remaining," said Michael Pyritz, DOT Communications Manager.

It's an all-in effort to extend the remaining salt supply through the rest of the winter. Average salt use on the State Highway System is about 500,000 tons per year. At the beginning of this season, 775,000 tons of salt were available and about 135,000 tons remain. Plus, the salt supply is not evenly distributed across the entire state. Pyritz says WisDOT has to do a little maneuvering to make sure everyone has enough.

"In fact, we’re even transferring within different regions of the state. Some of salt that will be coming into the Milwaukee area I believe is coming out of the Prairie du Chien area. So we’re reaching out to different locations within the state and arranging to have that material brought here into the southeast region," said Pyritz.

Along with impacting plowing and salting activities, WisDOT says this bitterly cold and snowy winter means motorists also need to be especially alert for potholes. The extreme cold has resulted in frost depths of five feet or more in many areas, causing a variety of problems including pavement tenting or heaving.

Potholes form when moisture enters cracks in pavement and the water freezes and expands. Warmer temperatures and traffic can then loosen the pavement causing pieces to break free. Compared to an average winter, this season has seen a 60 percent increase in the number of winter storm events. As moisture from repeated snowfalls melts, enters pavement cracks and freezes, it creates the perfect conditions for potholes.

4 comments

  • fred

    we paid in taxes for the dot to keep our road clean and safe, it sound like bad management, so you save on salt and create more bad condition for more injuries and out of pocket cost for repairs to one vehicle, this is so dumb of the dot

  • Steven

    when does the dot have OUR best interest??Just another over bloated tax burden with little to show for it…

  • Mr. Plow

    If they want to conserve salt, how about telling the city and county guys to plow 2 inches of snow instead of only salting it 3 or four times! They try salting off 2-3″ of snow therefore they salt it numerous times when they could plow it once, then salt it once. This would save A BUNCH of salt in my opinion. But hey, what do I know? It’s not like I work at a snowplow business or anything HA! (Hope you detected my sarcasm)

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