The state Department of Transportation has directed counties to reduce the quantity of salt they apply to some state roadways.
According to Brent Matthews, a maintenance supervisor for the DOT’s north central region, interstates will not be affected but crews will decrease the amount of salt they apply to less-trafficked roads.
In Oneida County, less salt will be applied on State Highway 51 north of State Highway 8 through Minocqua, and State Highway 47, among other roadways.
“Basically we’re taking proactive steps to ensure adequate salt supply for the rest of the winter,” Matthews said.
The DOT’s directive, issued in a Feb. 28 memorandum to county highway commissioners, states that the reduced salt levels would not apply during freezing rain. The memo also advises counties to pre-wet salt, which helps the salt stick to roads, and to mix salt and sand together.
The state purchased 775,000 tons of salt for the state highway system this winter season. About 135,000 tons remain under contract, Matthews said, and the DOT is continuing to look for chances to purchase additional salt while using the remaining salt supply efficiently.
Matthews said he believed highway crews would still be able to sufficiently clear roadways of snow, but that doing so just might take longer than usual.
“You could see a reduced level of service a little bit,” Matthews said.
The Feb. 28 DOT memorandum says the unusually active winter season prompted officials to reduce salt application to roads.
“The prolonged extreme winter temperatures are jeopardizing the timely delivery of salt, and, as a precautionary measure, additional salt conservation steps are being instituted to extend available salt inventories,” the memorandum reads.
It continues: “For the remainder of this winter, salt supplies must be carefully managed.”
The Lakeland Times left a message Wednesday morning for a DOT engineer asking whether the state could easily buy more salt this season if necessary.
Vilas County Highway Commissioner Jarred Maney said that because of the DOT directive, his department would hold off on applying salt until after winter storms have concluded. In the past, he said crews would apply minimal amounts of salt during storms to prevent snow from packing. Now, he said, plow drivers will wait to apply salt until after storms have concluded.
“We’re still going to maintain a good level of service,” Maney said.
Oneida County Highway Commissioner Freeman Bennett was not available for comment Wednesday morning.
Jonathan Anderson may be reached at email@example.com.