The Salty Roads
“Eight to ten inches of snow is good, but an eighth inch of ice is no good. Nothing worse than a salt truck on ice.” - I did a ride along with Mark, an Assistant Superintendent of our Community Service Department, ahead of a refreezing event in March of 2019. Mark has 28 years behind the wheel of a plow truck in West Chester. He has seen a lot of changes in Township, but a commitment to keeping our roads safe is something that hasn’t changed.
Deciding the best way to treat the roads is an art form. Understanding the weather, air temperature, ground temperature, type of precipitation, and movement of weather systems – all go into understanding how to keep our drivers moving.
When the team gets ready for pretreatment, if the air temperature gets below 22 degrees we use a liquid calcium mixture. If the air temperature is above 22, we use brine, salt water. The Townships has containers and equipment to make our own calcium and brine mixtures for the trucks. The crews will roll out and treat the roads before an event if the moisture isn’t going to be rain first. The rain will wash any pretreatment off the road. Standard rock salt is used as pretreatment for a rain event and after an event has started, like tonight, the team spread rock salt to prevent refreezing.
Our Township has 18 salt trucks that are fitted with snow plows. The Township is divided up into 18 routes for treatment and plowing. The age and sophistication of the trucks vary. Some of the trucks have newer dumping equipment and newer plows. Each route has a dedicated driver, same team member does the same route for every event. They also use the same truck. Each truck is a little different. Each route is a little different. The drivers know to tight spots, trees that hang over the road that will scratch the truck, raised manhole covers. There are obstacles on every route that the drivers look out for as they drive.
Each one of the routes is split up fairly. They all take about the same time to complete. As we have grown as a Township, the routes are reevaluated to make sure the routes are efficient for the drivers. If the job is pretreating, it usually takes 2-3 hours to complete a route. If the team is plowing it can take up to 8 hours after the snow has stopped. If it’s one of those storms where the snow keeps coming down, the team will focus on the main roads first and keep them clean and safe, and then they go back into the cul-de-sacs.
Not all roads in the Township are the responsibility of the Township. Most of the main roads in the Township are treated by the State of Ohio or Butler County.
The State of Ohio is responsible for: the interstate, State Route 747 and U.S. Route 42.
Butler County is responsible for: Tylersville Road, Cincinnati-Dayton Road, Lakota Drive West, Muhlhauser Road, West Chester Road, Smith Road, Beckett Road, Port Union Road, Union Centre Boulevard; and portions of Crescentville Road, Cox Road - north of Tylersville, and Hamilton-Mason, west of State Route 747.
Riding along with Mark, I noticed how car drivers didn’t give enough room for the trucks to pass. Many times we would do a large turn in an intersection, salting the entire intersection. Cars didn’t wait for the truck to finish in the intersection. From now on, when I see a salt truck, I’m going to give it the same mindfulness as I do with emergency vehicles. Not pulling over for them, but giving them space and care I would pay for an ambulance. The plow trucks are doing a public service to keep all of us safe. We need to give them room.
Our West Chester Community Service Department is dedicated to our resident’s safety. It was great to see how well all of us are cared for during the slippery winter season.