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When county crews lower the blades of their snowplows and begin their battle with winter on state, U.S., and Interstate highways, they follow guidelines provided by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, developed in conjunction with counties, and endorsed by the County Highways Association.
The Department of Transportation’s snowplowing guidelines were recently revised to put all counties on the same page when it comes to plowing and salting state, U.S. and Interstate highways. The goal is to provide consistent travel on similar highways under similar conditions for motorists who drive through several counties in the winter.
State guidelines specify what the expectations are for snowplow crews during and after a winter storm. The guidelines create five categories of highways based on their traffic volumes and use. Throughout a storm, the guidelines direct snowplow operators to strive for and maintain “passable roadway” conditions, which are defined as roadways that are free of drifts, snow ridges, and as much ice and snow pack as is practical and can be traveled safely at reasonable speeds. A reasonable speed is one in which a vehicle can travel without losing traction.
The guidelines also specify that in most cases, during a storm, plowing is the first priority for snow removal with sensible salting done in accordance with specific application rate tables. De-icing agents, such as salt, are applied strategically and at rates that keep the snow plowable and reduce bonding to the pavement, while minimizing the impact to the environment.
After a storm, crews shift from maintaining passable roadways to cleaning up the traveled lanes, bridge decks, slippery spots, and intersections on all highway categories as they work toward achieving “bare pavement.” A bare pavement condition will not usually exist until weather conditions improve and, depending on the weather, may take several days or longer to achieve.
Key for motorists is to “drive for the conditions.” That means in winter, you’ll need to slow down and allow extra time to get to where you’re going. It’s also wise to make sure you, and everyone else in your vehicle, are buckled up. In winter, a frequent cause of crashes is motorists driving too fast for conditions. Know your vehicle and how it handles in winter. Four wheel or all wheel drive vehicles may help you get moving in snow, but they won’t help you stop faster or maintain control better once you’ve lost traction. Remember four-wheel drive does not mean four-wheel stop.
This message is brought to you by the St. Croix County Highway Department and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to aid in raising everyone’s awareness of their surroundings.