Liquid-only route to be tested in Keeseville area
By Zachary Matson
The state Department of Transportation will test the use of a liquid-only snow plow route in Keeseville and surrounding areas this winter, while expanding other salt reduction strategies as part of its response to the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force recommendations published in September.
This winter will mark the first season that DOT will have new monitoring technology installed on all of its snow plow trucks statewide. The automated vehicle locator technology enables the agency to track how much salt or brine each truck deploys on its route. It will also gather road and air temperature – an upgrade to other salt trackers DOT has used. Cameras installed on the trucks will provide a visual of road conditions.
“It’s a long-term investment we made and are committed to it,” Rob Fitch, DOT director of transportation maintenance, said. “It’s really the best tool we have.”
That technology will help road crews identify problem “cold spots,” where shading, poor drainage or other factors limit effective snow and ice removal. After identifying nuisance areas this winter, DOT can work over the summer to mitigate some of those problems ahead of the next winter season.
The data will let DOT officials evaluate salt reduction strategies and compare usage rates to how well roads were maintained during a given storm. Fitch said the department is interested in continuing to invest in analysis and use of data. The task force recommended making salt use data publicly accessible.
The Keeseville/town of Chesterfield/Port Kent pilot involves spreading liquid brine to treat a plow route on Routes 9, 9N and 373, both before and during winter storms. Brining has grown as a way to more effectively use salt, especially prior to storms. Fitch said DOT plans to document decisions on whether or not to use brine prior to winter events this season.
Hold the Salt
With a panel of task force members and other experts, Adirondack Explorer examines what’s next for road salt reduction in the Adirondacks.
The agency also committed to lowering salt application rates on parts of Route 30 around Lake Clear in Franklin County and working with municipalities to find local roads to test salt-free management strategies.
DOT plans to establish control road segments at ongoing pilot sites – on Route 86 in Lake Placid, Route 9N in Lake George and Route 5 in Herkimer County – to compare salt reduction strategies to more typical application rates.
The state law establishing the salt reduction task force also required the pilot program. DOT must summarize its pilot findings in a report to the governor and legislature by August.
A coalition of advocacy and research organizations in a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul last month called for a detailed plan to implement the task force recommendations. The groups suggested establishing an interagency council within the state government to coordinate a salt reduction strategy. The letter called for a long term plan stretching to 2030.
Scientists and other researchers have also insisted that water monitoring accompany the salt reduction pilot projects. Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky and researcher Jim Sutherland, in a report summarizing an independent evaluation of DOT’s Lake George pilot, raised concerns about data consistency and an increase in the number of salting trips driven.
For now, DOT is focused on the current winter season and meeting the legislative reporting deadline next summer, Fitch said.
“The pilots offer us an opportunity to consciously look deeper at our program to make sure we are really managing it to the fullest extent we can,” Fitch said.
Photo at top: A state plow truck clears Route 86 in the village of Saranac Lake. Photo by Mike Lynch
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