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Navigating the Slippery Slope of Winter Road Maintenance

Navigating the Slippery Slope of Winter Road Maintenance

County Connections :Highway Engineer

COOK COUNTY, MINNESOTA November 30, 2019  (LSN) With the change in seasons comes questions about Cook County’s current use of salt-sand mix to treat icy roads.

Thankfully, Minnesota has a strong and nationally-respected road research community working to address this issue.

Each year Minnesota cities and counties dedicate a small percentage of statewide funds ($4 million in 2019) to an annual program administered by a committee known as the Local Road Research Board, or LRRB. Currently, the LRRB and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) are cooperatively researching road salt alternatives and chloride reduction options, including potassium acetate, and equipment alternatives such as reversible plows and a v-shaped slurry spreader.

Unfortunately, prior studies have not yielded any viable alternatives.  In 2017, a LRRB-supported research project led by Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute concluded that environmental impact, product cost, application method, or a combination of these three barriers prohibits widespread use of several road salt alternatives used on airport runways and bridges, including potassium acetate, sodium acetate, potassium formate, sodium formate, urea, glycol-based deicers and succinate-based deicers. With that information in hand, Minnesota’s road maintenance professionals continue to search for an effective and affordable road salt alternative.

Will any of this work lead to changing Cook County’s winter maintenance practices?  Perhaps someday.  The crux is that, in addition to looking at product cost and potential environmental impacts, the highway department must consider effectiveness on low-traffic roads and increased equipment costs before proposing use of any road salt alternative.  For example, the anti-icing brine applied to some high-traffic freeways may not work as effectively on a shady, low-traffic highway that is not plowed as frequently.  Additionally, ordering different shapes of boxes or other equipment add-ons for county plow trucks could limit our ability to efficiently haul gravel during the summer maintenance season.

As we continue to investigate viable options, Cook County meets public safety needs and minimizes road salt use by applying a mix of seven to 10 percent sodium chloride and 90 to 93 percent fine-grained sand.  This mixing ratio, combined with comparatively lower traffic levels, leads to a reduced risk of toxic chloride concentrations in local lakes, rivers, and streams, as compared to metropolitan areas where road maintenance agencies regularly apply 50 percent or greater chloride mixes. In an average winter, Cook County uses 200 to 250 tons of road salt on its paved highways. (Road salt is rarely applied on gravel roads.)  On the other end of the spectrum, Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington, Scott, and Dakota Counties each apply thousands of tons of road salt each winter.

We understand that winter road maintenance is a complex issue. Cook County is committed to public safety and environmental stewardship, and we continually strive to improve our service in both these areas. If you have questions about this, other county road issues or research funding ideas, please call us at 218-387-3014.

If you travel on a road that appears to need attention outside of normal business hours, we ask you to call the Cook County Sheriff’s Office at 218-387-3030.  The sheriff’s office will follow up with highway department staff. We are fortunate to have a hard-working team of 15 maintenance workers and mechanics who dedicate many hours away from their families to provide winter maintenance services for residents and visitors.

Lastly, the highway department thanks everyone who drives vigilantly, especially during the winter season. Snow removal equipment operates with significantly larger blind spots than an automobile, and plow or grader drivers sometimes operate in reverse to adequately push snowbanks or spread salt-sand mix at an intersection. Please give them room – at least five car lengths – and use extra caution when approaching or meeting any snow removal equipment. By working together, we can navigate the slippery slope of winter road maintenance and better prepare for the winters to come.

For more information on this and other county highway issues, visit the highway department’s page at https://co.cook.mn.us. Information on statewide road conditions is available on MnDOT’s 511 statewide travel and road condition site, https://www.511mn.org/.

By: Cook County Highway Engineer Krysten Foster

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service.

 

About Cook County Minnesota

Cook Country Minnesota   Lake Superior News

Cook County is at the tip of Minnesota's Arrowhead region in the remote northeastern part of the state, stretching from the shores of Lake Superior to the US-Canada border. By land it borders Ontario, Canada to the north, and Lake County, MN to the west.  The highest point in Minnesota, Eagle Mountain is 2,301 feet and the highest lake,  Total Area equals 3,339.72 sq miles

Cook County is home to three national protected areas:
Grand Portage National Monument
Superior National Forest
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Cook County include:
 Grand Marais     Lutsen Mountains
 Gunflint Trail      Superior Hiking Trail
 Grand Portage 


Snow Levels Minnesota
Snow Depth  Minnesota   Lake Superior News

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Beacons of Hope exhibition opening at Concordia University-St. Paul

Solo exhibition by Anne Labovitz

Robert McKenzie 0 1678 Article rating: No rating

NORTHERN, MINNESOTA  ~~~~~~  September 16, 2021  (LSNews)  I am pleased to announce the opening of my latest exhibition, Beacons of Hope curated by Dr. Megan Arney Johnston at Concordia University-St. Paul.  The site-specific works center on the conceptual and gestural elements of hope.
 

Beacons of Hope opens Thursday, September 16th from 5-7pm with an artist talk at 5:30.  Please join me.  If you're unable to attend, the artist talk will be recorded and shared at a later date, and the works will be on view through October 13th.
 

#LSN_Art  #LSN_MNNews 

Lake Superior water levels have declined and have reached the seasonal long-term average

for the first time since April 2014

Robert McKenzie 0 1805 Article rating: 4.0

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~~~~  September 13, 2021 (LSNews)   As a result of the drier than average weather and water supply conditions, Lake Superior water levels have declined and have reached the seasonal long-term average for the first time since April 2014. Conditions have been wetter in the Lake Michigan-Huron basin and water levels are midway between the seasonal long-term average and the record high water levels that were observed last year. Lake Superior outflows continue to be set in consideration of water levels upstream and downstream.

#LSN_Shipping #LSN_MNNews #LSN_WiscNews #LSN_CircleTour 

Horne Fire Update

Robert McKenzie 0 3220 Article rating: No rating

ISLE ROYALE, MICHIGAN  ~~~~~~~  August 28, 2021 (LSNews)  The Horne Fire is currently 245 acres in size and still 15% contained. Isle Royale received 0.75 inches of rain yesterday. Firefighters are currently working to control and contain the fire. Check out the most recent maps of the Horne Fire

#LSN_Fire #LSN_Outdoors  #LSN_MiNews  #LSN_CookCounty 

Magnus Announces Lineup for 50th Anniversary Season

Robert McKenzie 0 4746 Article rating: No rating

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~~~~~  August 26, 2021 (LSNews)   Magnus Theatre is excited to announce a return to the stage, with a full season of Mainstage programming running from September 16, 2021 until May 14, 2022.

The theatre will be celebrating its 50th anniversary during the upcoming season

Horne Fire Update and Closures

Isle Royale National Park

Robert McKenzie 0 4571 Article rating: 4.7

ISLE ROYAL, MICHIGAN ~~~~~~~  August 22, 2021,(LSNews)   Isle Royale National Park is experiencing a wildfire on the island’s east end- the Horne Fire. It is approximately 200 acres in size at this time. Due to the progress of the Horne Fire, ongoing drought conditions, and elevated levels of fire danger, area closures are necessary to maintain public health and safety. Closed areas will be signed where possible and monitored to ensure compliance.

#LSN_MicNews #LSN_Cookcounty  #LSN_Fire

UP Wide Health Survey Arriving Soon

Robert McKenzie 0 3123 Article rating: No rating

SAULT STE MAIRE, MICHIGAN  ~~~~~~  August 16, 2021 (LSNews)  Health surveys will be mailed this week to randomly selected household addresses across the Upper Peninsula as part of a community health needs assessment sponsored by 32 regional healthcare partners, including local health departments, hospitals, clinics, behavioral health agencies and health foundations.

#LSN_Health  #LSN_MiNews 

WMH ~ Ambulance Transfer Update for Community

Local agencies are working together on securing ambulance transportation

Robert McKenzie 0 3151 Article rating: 5.0

SAULT STE MARIE, MICHIGAN  ~~~~~~  August 14,2021 (LSNews)  Local agencies are working together on securing ambulance transportation for patients from our local hospitals to other facilities for additional treatment. Like many industries, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are experiencing staffing shortages across the nation. In addition to low staffing numbers, each ambulance service has an obligation to comply with state and local requirements on protocol such as keeping a certain number of ambulances in the area to support 911 services. 

#LSN_Health  #LSN_MiNews 

Lake Superior water levels have declined and are approaching the seasonal long-term average

Robert McKenzie 0 4596 Article rating: No rating

THUNDER BAY, ONTARO  ~~~~~~~  August 4, 2021  (LSNews)  As a result of the drier than average weather and water supply conditions, Lake Superior water levels have declined and are approaching the seasonal long-term average. Conditions have been wetter in the Lake Michigan-Huron basin and water levels are midway between the seasonal long-term average and the record-high water levels that were observed last year. Lake Superior outflows continue to be set in consideration of water levels upstream and downstream.

#LSN_Shipping 

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