Ottawa County plows, salt trucks ready for winter

Mark Brooky • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:15 AM

He calls that speed “the industry standard,” despite an announcement this week that state salt trucks will be dropping to that speed this year in some southwestern counties in a test run aimed mainly at saving money.

“Spreading salt at 25 mph is the target speed,” Laughlin explained. “Substantially above that, there is a chance the salt will bounce off the roads and go where it isn’t supposed to go.”

Laughlin said the county plows go faster, as that work is dictated by the amount of snow that must be pushed off the road.

The Michigan Department of Transportation announced Monday that state snowplow trucks in nine southwestern Michigan counties will be taking it a little slower this year while salting roadways. Plows will be going 25 mph while dropping salt instead of previous speeds of 35-45 mph.

The salting changes will be introduced in Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties.

“This change in our salting practices is designed to reduce costs and increase our effectiveness and efficiency,” MDOT Southwest Region Maintenance Superintendent Rich Hassenzahl said.

The slower salting, which is part of a state pilot project, could mean MDOT uses 30-40 percent less salt in the region. If it works, MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa said it could be expanded to other parts of the state in the future.

The Ottawa County Road Commission maintains all state roads in the county on behalf of MDOT, and Laughlin said the state agency has mandated a lower level of service on some non-freeway routes. The impacted state routes are: Lake Michigan Drive (M-45), Old Chicago Drive (M-121), Remembrance Drive (M-11) and the Interstate 196 business loop from Zeeland to Holland. 

The Ottawa County Road Commission has 64 drivers — 56 work the day shift, four work second shift and four work overnight. The fleet includes 61 single-axle trucks and 18 tandems, plus five special anti-icing trucks.

Every winter, mailboxes get damaged, and Laughlin said the county has a policy to address it. The agency’s website (www.ottawacorc.com) has information about the mailbox damage process, as well as information on snow deflectors that can be temporarily installed to minimize snow damage to mailboxes.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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