Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance crews in the Denver metro area have dusted off their winter boots, gloves and snow plows in anticipation for the first significant snowfall.
While most of us may not be quite ready for snow and cold weather, CDOT crews are prepared for the winter ahead.
This year, 248 maintenance employees will continue to use a variety of equipment, snow removal products and technology to battle the winter conditions on Denver metro area highways. During snow events, CDOT crews will work 12-hour shifts, even on holidays and weekends, until the roads are clear of snow and ice.
“Keeping our highways clear of snow and ice during every snow event can be challenging, but we have very dedicated and well-trained employees who help keep our highways open and passable even during the worst of conditions,” said CDOT Executive Director Don Hunt. “While our crews do their best to battle Mother Nature, we need your help as a motorist to keep our highways safe. Slow down when driving on wet or snowy roads and near snow plows."
CDOT’s maintenance crews will have approximately $6.6 million of the state’s $60.9 million snow and ice budget to plow, sand and de-ice 3,850 lane miles of Interstates, freeways and state highways.
In all, 117 pieces of equipment will be used including 100 snow plows that apply liquid and/or solid de-icers, three 6,000-gallon tankers that apply liquid de-icers and 17 broom trucks to sweep up or pick up material after a storm.
In addition to the snow removal equipment, CDOT will continue to use both liquid de-icers, solid de-icers, and a sand/salt mixture. The main liquid de-icer that will be used throughout the winter is called APEX, which is a magnesium chloride-based product used above -4 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to a lower freezing point, it can serve as regular and cold-temperature magnesium chloride and is extremely efficient for crews as they do not have to change products during a snowstorm when the temperature drops.
The main solid de-icer that will be used throughout the winter is Ice Slicer, which at times may be mixed with sand to increase traction. Ice Slicer consists of a granular salt and magnesium chloride and is primarily used for temperatures 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Last year, CDOT used approximately 1.6 million gallons of liquid de-icer and nearly 18,000 tons of solid de-icers in the Denver metro area while plowing, sanding and/or de-icing over 570,300 miles of road. CDOT spent approximately $7.3 million in the Denver area between July 2011 and June 2012.
There are three additional tools that maintenance crews utilize to help them make informed decision. The first is the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS), which allows crews to input real-time conditions, including road and ambient temperature, type of snow removal products being used and the application rate and the system will provide recommended treatments on a route-by-route basis. There are 48 snow plows equipped with MDSS.
The second tool is weather stations that provide real-time information including road and ambient temperature, dew point, wind direction, amount of moisture and ice pack on the roadway and traction levels of the roadway. Many of the weather stations link with MDSS and can help snow plow operators determine when treatment is necessary and how much product should be applied. There are approximately 15 weather stations in the metro area and another one is being installed on I-25 near Sports Authority Field and will be activated in the spring of 2013. Some of the locations include:
I-25 at State Highway 7
I-70 at Chambers Road
I-225 and Parker Road
The third tool is automatic de-icing systems. CDOT has three systems in the Denver metro area:
Eastbound I-270 to Eastbound I-76
Southbound I-25 to Northbound I-225
Southbound I-225 to Southbound I-25
All of the systems are designed to automatically spray liquid de-icers when the on-site sensors detect a decrease in surface temperature among other conditions such as tire grip, type of moisture and depth of moisture.
“With the help of these tools, we can be more efficient and effective as we can plan ahead and quickly react to the changing weather conditions,” said CDOT Maintenance Supervisor Mark Carrillo.
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 via the website and phone.
You can also sign up for e-mail and text message alerts by visiting www.coloradodot.info and clicking on the cell phone icon in the upper right corner under the search function. You can then subscribe to any of the lists free of charge (standard text message rates do apply).