Winter Road Maintenance
Each winter storm event is unique. Therefore, the judgment of the Superintendent of
Highways often governs the quantities and type of applications used to control
snow and ice. Public safety is always our top priority. It is the intent of
the Highway Department to use the minimum de-icing or anti-icing material needed
to restore safe travel conditions as soon as practical following termination of
There are many variables effecting winter maintenance operations such as type of
precipitation, air and pavement temperature, traffic volume, wind, time of day,
and even the day of the week. Type and volume of traffic and road gradient are
the primary factors in determining the order of winter maintenance service.
Providing bare dry travel surfaces during a winter storm event is not practical
and therefore not expected.
Frozen precipitation including sleet and the build-up of ice caused by freezing rain
are special situations. When a changeover from snow or sleet to freezing rain
is predicted or anticipated, snow and/or sleet is left on the pavement to
capture the freezing rain thereby preventing a glare ice situation which without
question is the most treacherous condition that occurs on highways. Treatment
includes applications of salt as needed throughout the storm although heavy rain
tends to wash off applied salt or sand, making it difficult to keep the pavement
Plowing operations are generally initiated after 2 to 4 inches of snow have fallen and
may continue until the storm has concluded. It is expected that each plow route
will take 4 hours or less to complete. Currently eighteen six-wheel dump
trucks, three ten-wheel dump trucks, two three-ton dump trucks, and 3 loaders
are used for plowing the 176 miles of highway and various municipal parking
lots. Three Trackless sidewalk plows are used for maintaining 40 miles of
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent depositing snow in previously cleaned
driveways or walkways except to leave a hazardous mound of snow. With thousands
of driveways of all sizes and descriptions along our roadways it is impossible
to clear these individual drives.
Snow removal and ice control usually requires the timely application of either
chemicals, abrasives, or a chemical-abrasive mixture to roadway surfaces in
combination with aggressive snow plowing operations. Choice of material is
dependent upon the weather and road conditions. Occasionally conditions such as
low temperatures do not require material applications. Materials available
include the following:
Sodium Chloride: The use of sodium chloride (common salt) combined with snow plowing
is the most effective, most economical and safest snow and ice control method currently
available. Salt is most effective for melting purposes at temperatures
above 20 degrees F., with reduced melting ability as the temperature drops.
In general, the purpose of salt is to (1) reduce adherence of snow to the
pavement, (2) keep the snow in a "mealy" condition and thereby permit nearly
full removal by plowing, and (3) prevent the formation of ice or snow ice
(hard pack). Salt is not intended to take the place of snowplows. It is
economically and environmentally unacceptable to attempt to melt snow
accumulations that can be plowed.
Calcium Chloride: Calcium chloride is a chemical, which melts ice at lower temperatures
than sodium chloride. Liquid calcium chloride can be used to pre-wet solid
sodium chloride to trigger the chemical reaction at low temperatures. The
addition of liquid calcium chloride also is beneficial in retaining de-icing
material on the roadway be increasing the adhesion of the material to the
Abrasives: Abrasives (sand and fine mineral aggregates) are used primarily for
immediate traction on hills, curves, intersections, railroad crossings and
other areas to increase traction and minimize the use of salt.
Generally the Town of Bethlehem Highway Department applies sodium chloride
pre-wet with a calcium chloride solution to the middle 1/3 of pavement width
and on the high side of banked curves. Materials are applied early in the
storm so that brine develops on the pavement and prevents build-up of packed
snow. It takes much less deicing chemical to remove compacted snow when the
treatment is placed between the pavement/snow layer than if it is placed on
top of the snow. If snow continues and accumulates on the pavement, plowing
will continue and additional chemical treatments will be made if compaction
Typically, plowing on sidewalks does not commence until accumulations are in
excess of two inches. The longer it takes to clear a route, the greater the
chances for the snow to become packed, turn to ice, etc. Property owners can
assist by removing snow from the sidewalks after a storm.
After heavy snowfalls, the sidewalk machines will be equipped with snow blowers
to widen out the sidewalk. It can take several days to clear the routes
with a blower, but heavier accumulations necessitate the use of a blower to
clear the full width of sidewalk.
Occasionally mailboxes or other property is damaged by snow plowing operations
due to poor visibility, the mailbox being buried in a snow bank or the
weight/volume of the snow being plowed. This damage is not deliberate and in
most cases is unavoidable. At the discretion of the Highway Department, we will
repair, replace or re-erect boxes that are located within the highway
right-of-way. Please contact the Highway Department at 439-4955 and select
option 1 to report any damage.
The town will repair lawns and driveways damaged by town snowplows.
As a rule the town does not repair private improvements (fences, sprinklers,
rock gardens, etc.) installed in the highway right-of-way; the Town Code
prohibits placing these items in the right-of-way.
Restoration of plow damage to sod and blacktop is generally completed in May
and June. If you have questions or concerns, call please contact the Highway Department at 439-4955
and select option 1.