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Gov. John Hickenlooper and the National Weather Service have designated this week “Winter Weather Awareness Week” in Colorado. Appropriately, maintenance crews from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in Larimer County are prepared for the winter ahead. There are 44 maintenance employees dedicated to plowing and de-icing state highways in Loveland, Fort Collins, Berthoud, Wellington, Poudre Canyon and over Cameron Pass. To help crews combat snow and ice along 1,908 lane miles of highway, a variety of equipment and products will be used throughout the winter.
“We are fortunate to have a variety of tools and equipment at our disposal to combat the severe winter storms that hit our area every year,” said CDOT Maintenance Tom Aguilar. “Before, during, and after these storms, our dedicated crews work tirelessly to make the roadways as safe as possible for motorists.”
CDOT always treats and plows primary roads first such as I-25, US 287 and State Highway 14. Secondary routes include Colorado 1, U.S. 34, Colorado 56, Colorado 60, Colorado 392 and Colorado 402. Highway segments with an annual average daily traffic count of less than 1,000 will experience limited snow removal operations. For the most part, CDOT crews will maintain these highways 14-hours a day, from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. (exceptions may be granted for school bus routes, highway segments with high accident rates or hospital/emergency routes). To see a complete list of highways with limited plow coverage, visit www.coloradodot.info/travel/winter-driving.
To help maintenance crews combat the snow and ice, CDOT will still continue to use liquid de-icers, solid de-icers, and a sand/Ice Slicer mixture. The two main types of liquid de-icers that will be in used this winter are magnesium chloride and cold temperature magnesium chloride. Magnesium chloride* is effective at pavement temperatures above 16 degrees Fahrenheit while cold temperature modified magnesium chloride* is effective for pavement temperatures below 16 degrees Fahrenheit. Trucks are equipped with infrared sensors to monitor ambient and pavement temperatures throughout a storm.
The two types of solid de-icers that will be used are Ice Slicer and North American Salt. Both are granular salts mixed with magnesium chloride. Ice Slicer is primarily used for pavement temperatures 20 degrees Fahrenheit and below while North American Salt is primarily used for pavement temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. In some areas, crews will mix the solid de-icers with sand for increased traction.
To disperse these various products, the maintenance crews will use 37 pieces of snow removal equipment. Of the 37 pieces, 25 are snow plows used to apply solid and liquid de-ciers. There are also seven loaders, two motor graders and a snow blower for the removal of heavy or large amounts of snow. Crews use two sweepers clean up material following snow storms.
In addition to the products and equipment, CDOT utilizes real-time technology called the Maintenance Decision Support System, which combines advanced weather prediction, advanced road condition prediction and rules of practice for anti-icing and de-icing to generate road treatment recommendations on a route-by-route basis. The goal of the system is to provide more effective use of maintenance resources in order to increase safety, reliability and mobility on roadways.
The MDSS system allows crews to input real-time conditions, including road and ambient temperature, type of snow removal products being used and the application rate. After comparing the information to 15 weather reports, the system will then provide suggested treatments based on the information and models. The system may tell the operator to re-treat the road at a later time, apply different products at different rates or even to continue current procedures. The suggested treatment can then be followed or the operator can override the system. Eleven trucks in this maintenance area will be equipped with MDSS this year.
Last year, CDOT used approximately 136,846 gallons of liquid de-icer and 3,268 tons of solid de-icer in the Loveland area. Crews also plowed 114,000 lane miles in Larimer County.
While CDOT is prepared for the winter ahead, it is also important for motorists to be prepared. CDOT strongly encourages motorists to plan ahead by visiting www.cotrip.org or by calling 511 anywhere in Colorado. Current road and weather conditions are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can also sign up for e-mail and text message alerts by visiting www.coloradodot.info and clicking on the green cell phone icon in the upper right corner under the search function. You can subscribe to any of the lists for free and there is an entire list dedicated to northeast Colorado.
Here are a few winter driving tips to remember:
· Be sure your windshield wiper fluid reservoirs are full as liquid de-icers may stick to your windshield.
· Let the snowplow drivers do their jobs by giving them extra room and don’t pass them on the right.
· Slow down! Even roads that have been treated with liquid de-icers may be slippery.
· Be prepared. Have a scraper, snow brush, coat, hat, gloves, blanket, first aid kit, flashlight, tire chains, water, and nonperishable food in your car.
· Make sure your tires have good tread.