MDOT primarily uses salt and limestone aggregate in Garrett County, and Keyser’s Ridge has the largest salt barn, with a capacity for 13,000 tons of salt. (L-R): Tony Crawford, district engineer of District 6; Charlie Gischlar, deputy director of media relations, MDOT SHA; and Trip Martin, resident maintenance engineer of Garrett County.
In early October, final preparations had already been made for the winter season at the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration when the annual Snow Show was held at the Keyser's Ridge, Md., garage.
This is located in Garrett County, which is one of three counties in District 6. The others are Allegany and Washington.
In Garrett County, besides equipment inspections, this includes agreements with hired contractors and materials for treatment of the 513 lane mi. of the state road system. The garage stockpiled approximately 25,000 tons of salt, 42,000 gal. of capacity for salt brine and 24,000 tons of aggregate/abrasives.
Tony Crawford, district engineer of District 6, and Trip Martin, resident maintenance engineer of Garrett County, met with members of the media at the main shop at Keyser's Ridge.
"Whatever winter weather comes our way, MDOT SHA has the equipment, materials and skilled crews ready for the challenge," Crawford said. "Thankfully, we have a lot of seasoned winter experienced operators, which makes a difference when it comes to fighting winter. We also ask that motorists brush up on driving during winter weather."
Contracted drivers make up approximately two-thirds of the current fleet.
"Without our hired trucks, we couldn't do it," Crawford said. "We just don't have the resources or manpower. We have such a good working relationship with them, we can just send them out on the route. They've been driving here forever. They live here. They know the routes."
Martin reported there are a total of 18 contractors with 52 hired trucks for Garrett County.
"Every year, we're always looking to add new hired trucks to supplement our staff," Crawford said. "We run 12-hour shifts. I always tell our people, ‘If it's three feet of snow or one inch of snow, we're still going to be here.'"
In Allegany and Garrett counties, should a snow or ice storm last for two days, crews will work 12-hour shifts until the storm ends and roads are clear.
In Garrett County, Crawford said that the average snowfall is usually 130 to 140 in. per year. Last year, MDOT reported 126.5 in., and the year before was 165.3.
MDOT primarily uses salt and limestone aggregate in Garrett County, and Keyser's Ridge has the largest salt barn, with a capacity for 13,000 tons of salt.
Liquid brine, a newer technology, also is used to pretreat the roads if the conditions warrant it. The treatment must be used 24 hours ahead of snowfall since it must dry first and adhere to the road. It then prevents the initial bond of snow to the road. The brine also is used in tanks on the salt trucks.
"Salt brine is actually introduced in the spreader box," Martin said. "It actually activates the salt faster, and it reduces the amount of bounce and scatter, so we don't waste that material when it comes off the end of the spreader. It doesn't go everywhere, just on the travel portion of the highway."
The MDOT fleet includes plows, single trucks, dump trucks, tandems with dual wings, a tow plow, snow blowers and Oshkosh snow removal machines.
According to MDOT, the tow plow is a steerable, trailer-mounted plow that is pulled behind a tandem-axle snowplow truck and can swing out to one side, doubling the plow width of a tandem-axle snowplow truck. It is equipped with a snowplow and either a granular spreader for salt or a tank for dispensing salt brine over snow and ice. It does not have a motor and is attached behind and to the side of a standard plow truck.
"It should be noted that for all of the technology and all of the equipment we have, none of this would get done it weren't for the 40 or 50 people that are sitting behind the wheel of this stuff," Martin said. "These people work 12-hour shifts indefinitely. My hat's off to them. Every single one of them."
District 6 snowfalls vary each winter. For 2021-22, the total was 324.25 in., and for 2020-21, the total reached 174.25 in. Garrett County gets the most snow, with 126.5 in. in 2021-22 and 165.3 in 2020-21. Allegany County measured 64.2 in. and 93.4 in., while Washington County reached 31.6 in. and 65.85 in.
"Every winter, everybody asks us if we're prepared," Crawford said. "We prepare for the worst, hoping for the best. Whether it's 270 inches of snow or 170 inches of snow, we're going to be here every day and all night sometimes, so we prepare for the worst."
Garrett County has 512 lanes mi. of roadway, Allegany has 605 lane mi., and Washington County has 788 lane mi., for a total of 1,905 lane mi. for the district.
Current salt supply totals are 20.410 tons for Allegany County, 31,334 tons for Garrett County and 20,250 tons for Washington County. In addition, salt brine totals are 59,000 gal. for Allegany County, 42,000 gal. for Garrett County, and 53,000 gal. for Washington County. Abrasives total 1,500 tons for Allegany County, 33,000 tons for Garrett County and 600 tons for Washington County.
"Remember — On Ice and Snow Take It Slow," Crawford said. "SHA crews will be out until the roads are safe and passable, so we are asking all motorists to partner with us and slow down and drive with extreme caution during winter weather. Don't Crowd the Plow is the best advice we can offer drivers. Trying to pass these large 20-ton trucks is dangerous and could result in major damage to your much smaller vehicle if you collide."
MDOT SHA offers real-time winter operations information from its Statewide Transportation Operations Resource Map (STORM) to find where roads were treated and where MDOT SHA equipment is located. Motorists also have access to hundreds of live traffic cameras and any information related to roadway conditions. CEG
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