Treacherous roads challenge county crewsIt’s been a tough winter – not just for motorists, but also for those who are trying their best to keep the hundreds of miles of roads around the county safe.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
It’s been a tough winter – not just for motorists, but also for those who are trying their best to keep the hundreds of miles of roads around the county safe.
At the January 10 Douglas County Board meeting, commissioner Jerry Johnson asked Dave Robley, Douglas County Public Works director, about this year’s winter and the use of salt and sand.
Robley responded by saying, “We are doing the best we can. It has been treacherous out there.”
The one key aspect to salting and sanding the roads that Robley stressed right away is that regardless of how much salt is put down, it won’t help if the temperature‘s below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Salt doesn’t work if it gets below 15 degrees,” he emphasized. He added that sand will help with traction, but not much else. It won’t help with melting the snow and ice that has been building up on the roads.
The public works department uses a mixture of 90 percent sand and 10 percent salt, according to Robley, adding that the cost for salt is about $90 per ton, which has more than doubled in the past 10 years.
In a typical year, the county uses about 1,500 tons of salt.
One of the commissioners asked if the county has run out of salt, to which Robley replied that it hasn’t, but the supply is getting low.
He also mentioned that the Minnesota Department of Transportation uses straight salt on Minnesota’s highways, not a mixture like the county, which is why some roads are cleaner than others.
“We really are doing the best we can, but this year, the snow is piling up pretty good,” Robley told the commissioners.
He noted that during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends, his crew members only had one day off each weekend, otherwise they were working hard trying to get all the roads around the county clean and clear.
Commissioner Dan Olson told Robley, “It’s been a no-win situation this year.”
What makes it frustrating, according to Robley, is that with sand, people can see it on the roads, but with the salt, they can’t and then they maybe think that the county highway department isn’t doing anything about the roads.
He reiterated that salt doesn’t work if it is below 15 degrees.
Commissioner Bev Bales thanked Robley and his department for a job well done and told him, “We’ll look forward to that January thaw!”