Road crews get ready for winter
Temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s earlier this week made it easy to put off thoughts of winter, yet one giant reminder it's coming is the mountain of salt piled at the Minnesota Department of Transportation's facility in northwest Rochester.
Nine thousand tons of the white stuff to be used on the roads this winter has filled a MnDOT shelter structure 100 feet wide by 150 feet deep. MnDOT maintenance crew member Joe Fogarty guesses the salt pile could be almost 50 feet high.
Transportation department crews will be using the salt to treat 3,788 lane miles of roads within MnDOT's District 6, which includes Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha and Winona.
Treating roads before the storm
MnDOT has taken on the practice of pre-treating roadways with a salt brine mixture in anticipation of snow storms.
"We'll do it a couple of hours before a storm on the highways in town and the bridges. The mix keeps ice from forming on the roads and helps with plowing the ice and snow," Fogarty said.
"It's way more cost-effective than trying to plow snow and ice that's stuck to the pavement and treating it afterward with granular chemicals, which is much more expensive," said Mike Burns, Rochester's street maintenance manager.
This winter, Olmsted County road maintenance crews also will be out pre-treating bridges and high-traffic roadways with a brine mix, said county Public Works Director Mike Sheehan.
"Anything we can do to provide a safer roadway for the users is always good. And many times, the first things that tend to get slippery are the bridge decks. So, we just feel that we should be doing more and more of this. And with our higher-volume roadways, we think this is a good application," Sheehan said.
During a big snow storm, MnDOT could have as many as 106 plows out in District 6. Olmsted County has about 26 vehicles for clearing the more than 800 miles of roads for which is it responsible — and that includes roads in seven townships.
Burns said the city has 46 pieces of equipment, including, plows, loaders, graders and sidewalk machines, for snow removal in Rochester.
In addition to the salt mountain at MnDOT's facility, the county and city keep their own big piles of salt and sand. The three entities share the materials at times, Sheehan said. They also share facilities for storing the plows — that way, the trucks are in strategic locations when snow storms hit, he said.
This week, county road maintenance crews are working on installing plows and other equipment on the county's fleet of trucks so they'll be ready to go for upcoming snow storms.