MI County Road Agencies Balancing Salt Use With Environmental Considerations

Looks like Michigan’s 83 county road agencies are taking a cue from your doctor who always urges moderation in the use of salt. This year, due to both environmental and budgetary issues, the County Road Association of Michigan says that many individual agencies around the state will work to find the right balance of salt and alternatives in keeping roadways safe during the winter season.

Saying that it’s essential that county road agencies apply the right amount of salt to roads as a recipe for successfully maintaining safe winter roads, they also recognize that it’s not always easy for road agencies. It’s a balancing act they have to face every winter.

Craig Bryson, APR, Senior Manager of Communications and Public Information at the Road Commission for Oakland County, says, “We use as little salt as we can to protect the budget and the environment and make the roads as safe as possible,” adding, “We walk a fine line between those two competing needs of road safety and salt usage. We can’t eliminate salt use. Human life is part of this equation as well.”

County road agencies use a variety of methods to change salt use, including applying liquid calcium chloride for anti-icing, pre-treating roads with brine, calibrating vehicles and using innovative technology.

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Additionally, several other factors play into salt application, including timing and weather. According to Mark Christensen, Superintendent-Manager of the Road Commission for Montcalm County, monitoring those factors is crucial to maintaining roads. He says, “We try to salt when the weather allows us the best value for your dollar,” and adds, “We really look at environmental factors when we make the decision to salt – what the road temperature’s doing, if it’s going to be sunny later, and so on. It helps us determine the optimal time to salt, so we can do it when it makes sense. Bottom line: Let the environmental factors help you determine when to apply road salt.”

Overall, county road agencies have the motoring public in mind. By balancing road salt use with environmental and budgetary considerations, they work to provide the safest experience for drivers.

Bryson says, “We consider ourselves good stewards of the environment and the road,” adding, “We are conscious and aware of the impact we have on the environment. We’re also stewards of public money, so we want to reduce the cost of what we do without reducing efficiency, and we want to maintain the safety of roads with less salt.”

You can learn more about road salt application across Michigan in the latest issue of Crossroads magazine, the quarterly journal of the County Road Association of Michigan, which can be viewed digitally or downloaded at:  https://micountyroads.org/newsroom/crossroads/

The 83 members of the County Road Association of Michigan represent the unified voice for a safe and efficient county transportation infrastructure system in Michigan, including appropriate stewardship of the public’s right-of-way in rural and urban Michigan. Collectively, Michigan’s county road agencies manage 75-percent of all roads in the state, including 90,000 miles of roads and 5,700 bridges. County road agencies also maintain the state’s highway system in 64 counties. Michigan has the nation’s fourth-largest local road system.