Public Works crews preparing snow and ice control equipment

FREEHOLD, NJ – Meteorologists predict up to 6 inches snow could fall along coastal Monmouth County this weekend, and the county’s Public Works crews have been busy making preparations in the event they are required to respond to ensure county roads are safe and drivable.

Road crews from the county’s Department of Public Works & Engineering typically apply liquid salt brine to many of the county’s roads in order to prevent the snow and ice from bonding to the road surface. The county has about 1,000 lane miles of roads. Then, hours before the snow is expected to begin falling, they apply rock salt treated with magnesium chloride.

“We begin preparing for storms well in advance,” said John W. Tobia, director of the county’s Department of Public Works & Engineering. “We open up a 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.”

The county has 115 trucks outfitted with spreading and plowing capabilities, Tobia said.

“County highway personnel set the standard and example throughout the state on snow and ice control operations, as exhibited during last year’s numerous snowstorms,” said Freeholder John P. Curley, liaison to Public Works & Engineering. “County roads were always drivable during those events. The county’s road crews do an excellent job keeping county roads safe.”

According to the National Weather Service, snow and windy conditions could arrive in Monmouth County late Sunday and produce an undetermined amount of snowfall overnight Sunday into Monday morning. Combined with wind, drifting snow and ice, travel could be hazardous.

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

“The key is to keep 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.

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.

“We have found that magnesium chloride-treated  rock salt is much more effective and, therefore, there is a savings in man hours and material,” he said. “We use approximately 30 to 50 percent less material and reduction in spreading trips, depending on the snow event, for the same result. By reducing the number of trips, we are reducing costs and greenhouse gas emissions.