The Town of Sudbury Public Works Department’s priority during winter roadway maintenance is public safety. Over the years, the Town has made significant enhancements in its snow removal and ice treatment operations.
Over the last two years, there has been a focus on pretreatment of roadways to prevent the bonding and freezing of the snow to the roadway surface. This paradigm shift was consciously made as a preemptive mechanism for snow and ice management to ensure the safety of all motorists in Town. One critical piece of this shift is the use of salt (and salt pretreated with magnesium chloride) to melt the snow and ice from the roadway surface. Past practice was to use sand mixed with salt. This practice required multiple applications of the material at a significantly higher rate in order to get desired results. Most cases the sand would re-freeze after application and require additional treatment.
Studies have proven that sand has minimal value relative to providing traction. In fact, sand is actually an insulator and serves no purpose in melting or removing snow and ice from the roadway. Sand has been found to have a greater negative impact on critical resource areas particularly stream beds. The sand particles clog the vital spaces in gravel beds where macroinvertebrates [insects] live, making it hard for them to cling to rocks. Salt provides the safest and most economical option for roadway maintenance during the winter months here in New England. Preemptively applying salt as a pretreatment tool enables the precipitation to react with the salt and create a beneficial brine. This approach allows us to use less material during the storm and for post-storm cleanup.
The Public Works Department realizes the environmental issues relative to the use of salt on our roadways and our drains. In order to ensure we are applying the optimal amount of salt (not over-applying) we continue to calibrate our equipment annually. We are also methodically investing in GPS-enabled ground speed controllers which limits the amount of material discharged from the truck relative to its speed. Additionally we have invested in new carbide cutting edges for the plows that contour to the irregularities of the road surface and last over 20 times longer than standard hardened, high-carbon steel. These cutting edges clear more of the snow from the pavement subsequently reducing the amount of material we need to apply to melt the snow and ice and the longevity of the edges eliminates equipment down-time and labor costs.
These simple yet effective improvements will allow us to increase productivity, enhance efficiencies and optimize the application rate of road maintenance material (salt) to ensure public safety goals are met while environmental concerns are minimalized.