Road department Winter maintenance


Most of us cannot put our lives on hold when it snows.  That is why the Crook County Road Department strives to make winter travel as safe as possible.  Most drivers have watched our snowplows clear the roads and have seen sand applied on intersections and hills.   This practice has assisted with the adverse driving winter conditions that we can experience in Central Oregon.  We continually strive to improve our service and efficiency for our roads within the county maintained road system during these conditions.   That is why we would like to share some important facts concerning our maintenance program.

truck_web.jpgThis winter the Road Department will have 14 trained personnel working to clear Crook County’s Accepted Maintained roadways of ice, slush and snow.  These employees will use a variety of winter maintenance vehicles and applications including snowplows, sanders, graders, loaders, Deicing liquid distributors and pre-wetting systems.

More than 30 states with numerous counties therein face the same problems we do in getting snow and ice off the roads quickly so that the traveling public has safer roads to drive on during adverse conditions.  Over the years, we have utilized sanding materials, often referred to as abrasives, but they have proven to be expensive to purchase, store, use and clean up.  Sanding materials are easily blown off the road by the wind and/or passing vehicles, resulting in the need for frequent reapplication.  When sanding materials stay in place, they improve traction, but do not achieve an ideal goal of bare pavement for our travelers.  The most effective way to accomplish the ideal goal is through the usage of a liquid deicer.  As environmental and economical factors have become more prevalent, the use of chemical deicers has become more common.

More specifically, it has been addressed in Central Oregon, how the use of abrasives affects air quality because of Clean Air Act stipulations on the maximum amount of particulate material that can be suspended in the air.  When the measured amount of particulates in the air exceeds the standards for a community, that community reaches “non-attainment,” which means that it does not meet air quality standards.  The Crook County Road Department is sensitive to this issue, as this issue has become extremely prevalent in the not so distant past in neighboring counties, as well as potential health hazards.  It is my understanding that in non-attainment areas, federal funds can be used only after it is determined that certain programs and plans conform to the requirements of the Clean Air Act.  This should be an additional factor weighed when deciding whether to utilize chemical deicer on our roadways.

Cost is another issue that has been addressed.  We have weighed the forecasted expense of chemical deicer versus the cost of repeated applications of sanding materials and frequent snowplow passes.  A recent study in Montana compared the use of abrasives and chemical deicers.  Following a storm, two highways in close proximity of each other were utilized for the study.  One highway was treated with chemical deicer while the other highway was treated with abrasives.  The results showed that the use of chemical deicer was roughly one-third less than the cost of using abrasives.  As an added bonus, the travelers over the highway treated with the chemical deicer were driving on bare pavement.  In this instance, it is evident that by utilizing the chemical deicer, winter maintenance costs stand to be dramatically reduced while increasing the overall safety of the traveling environment. 


sanding_web.jpgHow does the Road Department decide which roads to clear first?
  • Bus Routes
  • Emergency Response Facilities located on County Maintained Roads. Juniper Canyon Fire Sub Station and Powell Butte Fire Sub Station.
  • Traffic Volumes, Intersections, Hills and Curves.
  • Availability of manpower and equipment resources
The Road Department will utilize chemical deicer on roads with high volume traffic.  This is required in order to activate the anti-icing agent.  We will also apply this agent with a pre wetting system mounted on our sanding trucks.  This will assist in maintaining the cinders on the road for longer periods of time.
The product will be applied prior to a storm arrival or in the early stages of a storm to prevent snow and ice pack (anti-icing).  Once the anti-icing work is completed, the Road Department will respond to the storm by attempting to clear our maintained roads in order of priority.  Sanding will be applied at intersections, hills, and vertical curves.

How will the Road Department determine when to use anti-icing and de-icing techniques?
  • A variety of factors are taken into account when deciding upon a course of action to treat winter roadways.  Product application combinations are chosen after our personnel evaluate many factors including air temperature, pavement temperature, humidity levels, dew point temperatures, exposure to solar radiation, type and rate of precipitation and weather forecasts.
  • Road Department personnel will continuously evaluate operational treatments before, during and after a storm.  Road treatments and applications will be modified through all phases of a storm based on careful analysis of intensity, duration and type of precipitation.
  • The Crook County Road Department has taken great pride in providing safe driving conditions for our County Accepted Maintained Roads.  We continually strive to improve our maintenance programs with continued education and research on a daily basis for our current road system.
"No road treatment can entirely eliminate the need for increased caution when driving in poor weather conditions. When faced with wet or snowy roads, it is always a good idea to allow additional travel time, to drive at reduced speeds, allow greater stopping distance, install traction tires on your vehicle, check them frequently to ensure that they are inflated properly and maintained in good repair."

Note: The above research has been compiled from several sources. 
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