Planning to clear snow from roads during a pandemic

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On this week’s edition of Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a discussion about how the pandemic could affect snowplowing. Gregg Brunner, director of MDOT’s Bureau of Field Services, talks about contingency planning for battling winter during a pandemic.

An Oct. 26 MDOT news release explained that the goal of MDOT and its partner agencies remains clearing highways to bare pavement as quickly as possible after a winter storm. If MDOT or local contract agencies are temporarily affected by COVID-19 infections or associated quarantines, it may take longer to reach this goal.

Brunner talks about innovations in clearing snow and ice along with practices adopted by MDOT where winter maintenance officials are always looking for ways to stretch taxpayer dollars by making salt go further, which also provides environmental benefits. To that end, MDOT is working with the Montcalm County Road Commission to pilot the use of a brine mixture on one state route this winter.

Also, the Michigan House Transportation Committee reported a bill this week that would require MDOT to pilot a program on using organic additives to control ice and snow on roads. SB 379 would require MDOT to work with at least one road agency to look at substances, like sugar beet molasses, and submit a report on its findings no later than June 30, 2025. The results of the program would look at cost and environmental impacts, as well as develop best practices. The bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

A perennial question during winter storms is why more salt is not being used. Brunner explains how temperatures determine when salt is used and when it loses effectiveness.

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