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Salt use high on roads this winter, frost heaves starting to show


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- The cold and snowy winter is taking a toll on area highways.

Dan Raczkowski is the Marathon County Highway Department’s Operations Superintendent. He says they have used a lot of salt and sand this year. “We’re cautiously concerned about the reserves we have yet, depending on what the rest of this winter brings into spring, I’m thinking we’ll be OK, but you just never know. Mother Nature is dealing the cards.”

Raczkowski says Marathon County averages 9,000 tons of salt on county roads every winter, and they’re close to using that amount right now with over a month of winter to go. They also go through another 10,000 to 13,000 tons of salt on state highways and I-39 each winter, and they’ve used about 9,000 tons there so far. The also use wetting agents including beet juice to make salt more effective at certain temperatures.

The Superintendent says the slightly longer days in February help road maintenance efforts a lot. “It’s getting easier now because the sun is getting higher in the sky. The road temperatures are getting a little warmer once the sun comes up, and that’s helping us all the way around as far as conserving some salt and being able to clean things up a little faster.”

Drivers are urged to pay closer attention to the surface of the road now due to frost heaves creating potentially dangerous dips and bumps. “Definitely more frost heaves on the roads. People have to watch. Some of the two-lane roads are worse than the four-lane, where we’ve got the roads heaved and the culverts are, it has not (heaved). This winter, the way the challenge has been going with all of the snow, we just haven’t time to get out there and put patches that we typically put on to try and smooth the road out.”

Raczkowski’s advice to drivers is to slow down and pay attention to everything around you and under you when driving.

(Listen to our interview with Dan Raczkowski on our website, here.)