Making Roads Safe in the Winter
Because safety is the number one priority for RCOC, when snow storms hit, we're out there plowing and salting to ensure the roads remain as ice-free as possible. But doing that during a major snow storm can be a real challenge.
In fact, snow storms that last 24 hours or more (many do in Michigan) can require the use of thousands of tons of salt, cause salt truck drivers to work long shifts (up to 16 hours spent driving in the worst of conditions, before they must take a five-and-a-half-hour break) and cost RCOC hundreds of thousands of dollars. And there are no road improvements to show for that expenditure.
Other Weather Factors
But it's not just major snow storms that require us to crank up our salt trucks and plows. In fact, freezing rain or a light dusting of snow that turns to ice can require that we send out our full force of salt trucks and plows for hours on end.
And, to ensure we're prepared when bad weather hits, we monitor the weather 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the winter, using Doppler radar and several professional weather services.
We're often asked how we decide which roads to salt or plow first. It's quite simple: We focus first on the roads with the most traffic, except in situations where abnormal conditions are known to exist or emergencies involving public health and safety occur. That means we'll work on the freeways and major thoroughfares before less-traveled streets. It also means subdivision streets and gravel roads are usually the last to be cleared.
Here's our official winter maintenance priority ranking:
- Critical Priority
Critical Priority roads are paved state and county roads with traffic volumes normally greater than 10,000 vehicles per day per single lane, and/or 40,000 vehicles per day with roads four or more lanes.
- Priority I
Priority I roads are paved state and county roads with volumes of 2,500 to 10,000 vehicles per day per single lane. In addition, terrain and road alignment are factors in assigning this priority. Priority I may also be assigned to roads to achieve route continuity and efficiency.
- Priority II
Priority II roads are other paved county roads. Priority II roads may be maintained as part of higher priority routes, but are generally maintained after Critical and Priority I roads are cleared.
- Priority III
Priority III roads are those paved roads providing access to hospitals, schools, and other significant traffic generators, and not categorized as Critical, Priority I or Priority II roads.
If you have any further questions or comments regarding snow removal policies, feel free to contact us.
For more information view our Winter Road Maintenance publication (PDF). Or our Plowing Subdivisions In Oakland County publication (PDF).