Road commission answers winter weather questions

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Slippery and snowy road conditions caused many crashes across West Michigan as winter riving returned Thursday — there were 119 traffic incidents in Ottawa County alone.

In its December newsletter, the Ottawa County Road Commission addressed frequently asked questions about how it responds to winter weather.

Why don’t crews put salt on roads before a winter storm?

The road commission says it’s because salt is usually only effective when it’s placed on roads after a snowfall.

Crews usually don’t put salt on clear roads — even icy roads — because it doesn’t stick to dry roads very well. Most of the salt gets blown or knocked off the road before it has time to work. So it’s a waste of salt and money to treat a bare road, the road commission said.

“It doesn’t tend to work very well on bare roads,” Ottawa County Road Commission spokesman Zach Russell told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday. “Sand will give you traction, whereas salt just melts the snow, so you have to wait until there’s a little bit more of snow packed on the roads.”

During a bad winter, the cost to treat roads can rise to more than $3 million and crews can use up to 25,000 tons of salt. That’s why it’s important to use salt when it’s most effective to help save money and salt, according to OCRC.

Even with salt on the roads, authorities say drivers should travel at a safe speed and give plenty of time to stop.

Why hasn’t my road been plowed yet?

Under its snow plowing policy, road commission crews work to clear higher traveled roads first. The priority order is as follows:

  1. State highways, including US-31 and I-96
  2. Multi-lane primary roads
  3. Primary roads
  4. Local paved roads
  5. Subdivision streets
  6. Local gravel roads
  7. Dead end streets and cul-de-sacs

During a heavy snowfall, the road commission says it may take some time for crews to get to less traveled roads — don’t worry, you haven’t been forgotten.

For more information, check out the Ottawa County Road Commission’s December newsletter.