Public Works crews our pre-treating the roads before it snows

FREEHOLD, NJ – Meteorologists predict six to 12 inches snow could fall in Monmouth County tonight into tomorrow morning, and the county’s Public Works crews were busy this afternoon applying liquid salt brine and rock salt to the county roads.

Road crews from the county’s Department of Public Works and Engineering apply liquid salt brine to the county’s roads, followed by an application of salt treated with magnesium chloride. The pre-treatment prevents the snow and ice from bonding to the road surface, making it easier for the plows to clear the snow. The county maintains about 1,000 lane miles of roads.

“We begin preparing for storms well in advance,” said John W. Tobia, director of the county’s Department of Public Works and Engineering. “We open the snow room to monitor a storm’s progress and field calls from municipalities. This reduces the numbers of personnel needed at the county’s nine highway districts, because the snow room dispatches crews as needed, which reduces overtime costs.”

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The county has 135 trucks outfitted with spreading and plowing capabilities, Tobia said.

“Pre-treating the roads is key,” Tobia said. “Magnesium chloride-treated rock salt is much more effective and, therefore, there is a savings in man hours and material. We use 30 to 50 percent less material and require less spreading trips, depending on the snow event, for the same result.”

According to the National Weather Service, snow and windy conditions are expected in Monmouth County tonight and could produce up to a foot of snow on top of the snow that fell 16 days ago. Combined with wind, drifting snow and ice, travel could be hazardous. Winds are expected to increase from the northwest and turn gusty after the snowfall causing blowing and drifting snow.

“County highway personnel continue to set the standard and example throughout the state on snow and ice control operations, as exhibited during last month’s snowstorm,” said Freeholder John P. Curley, liaison to Public Works and Engineering. “Our crews kept up with the snowfall and kept the county roads clear and passable. In most cases, county roads were showing blacktop as the storm moved out of our area. The county’s road crews do an excellent job keeping county roads safe.”

This is the third snow season the county will be using the salt brine combined with magnesium chloride-treated rock salt.

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The salt brine and a pre-application of treated rock salt prevent the snow and ice from bonding to the roads, and the treated rock salt is environmentally friendly. It does not burn the grass or other roadside vegetation nor does it corrode the trucks or the steel bridge spans.

“Monmouth County’s snow removal program is unique because we focus on keeping the ice and snow from bonding to the road surface,” Tobia said. “You may notice that the lanes will be slushy instead of iced over. That’s the first step before the plows come by and push it all aside.”

As a result, there have been far fewer telephone calls from local police departments about trouble spots, Tobia said. Typically, when police dispatchers call to report icy conditions – usually on bridges or curved roadways –the county dispatches additional trucks to perform some spot treatments.

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The new rock salt is much more efficient than the old rock salt, which was very corrosive to bridge structures, roadside vegetation, the roadway itself and trucks and equipment, Tobia said.