WINTER MAINTENANCE: Oregon DOT expanding materials toolkit for ice and snow control

Dec. 19, 2016

The result of a shift in policy, rock salt will augment state’s regular deicing protocols in certain areas

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has announced plans to begin using rock salt to augment its use of magnesium chloride solution for ice and snow control on roads across the state.

Specific problem areas, such as steep hills, will get the rock salt to speed melting and improve traction.

ODOT spokesman Dave Thompson said the use of salt would be “surgical,” not widespread. Salt would only be used when other options have failed, Thompson said. 

The state recently began using road salt near its borders with California, Nevada and Idaho, states whose use of road salt previously made for a treacherous transition at the border with salt-free Oregon.

As part of the pilot project, ODOT built salt-storage and specialized truck-maintenance facilities near the Siskiyou Mountains and in the southeast corner of the state. It doesn't have those facilities near Portland, so the salt will have to be trucked in. 

The policy change comes after an afternoon snowstorm brought Portland traffic to a standstill. Hundreds of thousands of commuters hit the roads at once, and some were stuck in congestion for as much as 10 hours. 

“We are saying that we've been listening to citizens,” Thompson said. “We still ask citizens to remember that there's a shared responsibility to being safe on the road.”