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Pilot Success Expands Salt Use

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Sizable reductions in the rate of crashes and chain restrictions on the Siskiyou Pass during a five-year pilot project are leading to an expansion of salt use along Interstate 5 in southern Oregon from the California border to north of Canyonville.

“This will mean fewer delays and chain requirements on the I-5 corridor, especially over the Sexton, Smith and Stage mountain passes north of Grants Pass and Canyon Mountain further to the north,” said ODOT District Manager Jerry Marmon. “We learned we can keep people safer and traffic moving smoother by having that additional resource available in our winter tool box.

“The pilot showed we improved safety, reduced crashes and delays, and reduced winter maintenance costs for sand and liquid deicer.”

To accommodate expanded salt use, ODOT is constructing a salt shed in Hugo near I-5 that can meet the needs from Grants Pass to Canyonville. ODOT has an existing agreement with Caltrans to use salt from that agency’s facility in Hilt.

Pilot Results
In 2012, ODOT began a pilot in two locations, I-5 at Siskiyou Pass and U.S. 95 between Nevada and Idaho. The five-year study results on the Siskiyou Pass showed the average crash rate fell 60 percent and the number of chain restrictions fell 40 percent.

“The pilot’s success combined with last winter’s success in the Willamette Valley and Portland metro area during the hardest storms proved salt can be used as a strategic tool,” said Marmon.

The pilot also assessed environmental impacts to nearby stream and soils in coordination with Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Fish and Wildlife and other agencies.

“Compared with states in the Midwest, Washington, California and now Oregon use a fraction of the salt applied in colder states,” said Marmon. “We’ve learned best practices from Caltrans and we will continue to monitor salt use closely.”

Winter Maintenance Practices
Winter maintenance practices include plowing, sanding and applying winter anti-icing liquid and salt. The combination of practices used may vary to accommodate the different climate, traffic, and storm conditions. ODOT’s goal is to improve road conditions during and after a storm. However, it is always up to the motorist to drive according to conditions.

For up-to-date travel conditions visit, ODOT’s travel information website.

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