Keeping the Winter Roads Safe Is a Township Priority

By Haley Sawyer, Moon News Cloud Contributor

It’s been an all-too-common site this winter: Shimmering snow and intricate ice crystals all over the roads.

The bitter cold and seemingly endless snow provided the Moon Township’s public works department with the challenge of keeping drivers safe.

The plan for how to treat the roads develops well before the snowy season begins.

“We look at how the township has grown and developed each year and we have a lot of development that occurs and things of that nature,” said John Scott, operations manager for Moon Township public works.  “We plan accordingly as far as if we have to order more salt, put on another guy or whatever we have to do.

“We look at past years, but you can’t really go by that because it changes every year,” continued the 30-year public works employee.  “Preparation, we prepare all our trucks and equipment every year and make sure it’s all in running condition.”

The department has a budget for materials and labor, which changes year by year.  A five to six percent increase in budget occurs on a yearly basis, which allows for more materials such as salt, cinders, and equipment.

The public works department has a specific system for keep roads drivable.  If there is two or less inches of snow expected, workers coat the road with salt; more than two, then plows are sent out.

If temperatures drop to 20 degrees or below, calcium chloride is added to the salt mixture.  The lower melting temperature of the chemical helps the salt bind to the road and increase its effects.

Some areas are incorporating other additives, some of which are a little unconventional.

Salt brine is popular among Pennsylvania municipalities because it is inexpensive and easy to make.  A specific percentage of salt is added to a specific percentage of water to make a mixture that is heavier and has less splatter.

“[Another] thing that they have is beet juice; all of the southern municipalities are starting to put that into operation.  It just makes the salt work better and it sticks to the road a little bit.  It’s not as corrosive as salt would be or calcium chloride would be on your vehicles,” explained Scott.  “In Wisconsin I heard that they’re using the brine they have when they make cheese and they’re using that.”

As far as running out of supplies, drivers need not be worried.  Currently, Moon Township has around one-thousand tons and about 200 tons are used per salting.  Another thousand tons are on order from the department’s salt provider.

Many people complain about how roads are not treated correctly or fast enough.  Public works, however tries their best to quickly and effectively make roads safe to drive on.

“You just have to give us a little bit of time to get it done,” said Scott.  “If they’re calling for snow, maybe leave a half hour later than you usually would because everybody wants to leave at rush hour in the morning to get to work and everybody wants to get home from work.  Leave a little earlier if you can or leave a bit later just to give us time to go out and do our job.”