How ITD is preparing for winter

District 1: Maintenance crews are changing from summer activities to winter challenges and are about halfway through the process of refitting dump trucks with snow plows and de-icing equipment. The transition should be complete by Nov. 1, said district highway operations engineer John Perfect.

Employees who were engaged in summer maintenance are preparing for highway plowing and application of brine – a salt solution that deters ice and snow buildup on highways.

District 2: About half of the dump trucks have been converted to winter use. Crews attended a pre-winter district-wide training to prepare for winter and will use a storm index tool developed in southeast Idaho to track the effectiveness of their responses. Meetings also included safety procedures and the use of magnesium chloride as an anti-icer.

The district uses a variety of highway treatments that includes magnesium chloride, sand and salt. All stockpiles are full and ready for application, said district highway operations engineer Doral Hoff.

District 3: The district usually begins transitioning to winter maintenance in September at the higher elevations. Many of the six- and 10-wheel dump trucks accommodate “slide-in” sanders and each can be re-fitted in about an hour, said Dan Bryant, of the district’s highway operations staff.

Operators include a mix of cross-trained drivers and part-time temporary drivers, some of which already have been hired and are waiting winter’s arrival. To protect air quality in the Treasure Valley, the district will rely more on salt or a blend of sand and salt and magnesium chloride for melting snow this winter. The district is transitioning away from the use of straight sand because of post-storm cleanup requirements.

The district works closely with the National Weather Service to monitor approaching storms and design staffing and response. The district can have a full compliment of drivers available in less than 24 hours.

District 4: As in other districts, the transition from summer to winter maintenance is about 50 percent complete, reports Ron Robinson of the district’s highway operations staff. Nearly all of the salt anticipated for winter use has been stockpiled and is ready for making brine at its production facility in Twin Falls.

Magnesium chloride is used at higher elevations, such as Timmerman and Stanley, to treat highways when temperatures fall below freezing. Highways at lower elevations will receive straight salt.

The district coordinates winter responses with the National Weather Service and this year received special StormReady Recognition that demonstrates adequate levels of emergency operations, including communications, equipment, facilities and human resources.

District 5: The district pioneered the use of storm-index tracking of winter activities to determine the efficiency and timeliness of responses. It has been adopted as a statewide measurement for winter maintenance.

The district also embraces the production and use of a salt brine treatment on snow- and ice-covered highways. A brine-making plant in Pocatello provides solutions to the northern part of the district while another plant near Soda Springs serves the southern areas, explains highway operations engineer Steve Gertonson. Both plants have storage capacities of about 20,000 gallons, and all of the district’s maintenance facilities have on-site storage of 6,000 to 10,000 gallons.

This year the district added a new 6,000-gallon tanker truck to transport brine from its Pocatello plant. An older tanker truck operates out of Soda Springs.

The conversion of dump trucks for winter use is about 70 percent complete, and ITD crews (including cross-over employees from summer jobs) are prepared for the arrival of winter. Maintenance foremen meet with National Weather Service forecasters twice a week to plan responses and will shift into 24-hour coverage when storms arrive.

District 6: Dump trucks enter the stable twice a year to prepare for rebirth – in the fall plowing snow and applying brine, said Ken Hahn, the district’s highway operations engineer.The conversion process takes about two days per truck and includes a full mechanical inspection for safety. The process is about 50 percent complete in Idaho Falls, Island Park, Sugar City and Rigby.

Crews have been assigned to shifts for plowing and de-icing application and are prepared for winter’s arrival.

Published 10-26-2012