Road commission prepares for frigid temperatures

Thousands of pounds of salt is stored at the Kent County Road Commission headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As West Michigan prepares for at least another week of these frigid temperatures, the Kent County Road commission is working around the clock to keep the roads salted.

Trucks can be seen throughout the day coming in and out of the commission’s headquarters gearing up for more preparation.

The road commission can store between 7,000 and 8,000 tons of salt in a dome at its headquarters off of Scribner Avenue, where trucks are able to load up 6-20 tons before hitting the road.

However, being prepared with the salt might not be enough with the sub-zero temperatures in West Michigan.

On Wednesday, it consulted with the National Weather Service before heading out to apply the salt and saw an opportunity during a patch of sunshine around noon. Pavement temperatures were close to 20 degrees despite the air temperatures being much cooler.

Trucks put down a heavy application of salt about 400 pounds of salt per mile, which is roughly double the normal amount. The salt worked for the most part, but Jerry Byrne, deputy managing director of operations for the Kent County Road Commission, said Thursday morning’s commute could still be dicey.

“It could actually refreeze again because it’s still just a little bit shiny,” he said. “We get any kind of moisture at all, it could be freezing the pavement so no guarantee what it’s going to be like at 5 or 6 in the morning.”

The road commission is advising drivers to travel at least 10 mph under the speed limit in slick conditions and to allow for extra time during commutes.