When economic conditions forced the city of Topeka to implement operational restructuring, the street maintenance division took on an entirely new management staff. Many new managers were relatively green when it came to winter maintenance, and to make the transition even more challenging, they began their new responsibilities in November.
“We all started just before the snow started flying,” said James Lopez, quality assurance manager. “Some of us—most of us, in fact—weren’t familiar with snow control or any deicing products.”
Fortunately, management had support from a seasoned street crew and a solid winter maintenance plan. The plan dictated what products to use at certain temperatures and on different road surfaces, as well as practices to implement under various conditions such as heavy snows, freezing rain and dry snows.
Part of the city’s winter maintenance plan included a product called ClearLane enhanced deicer. Produced by Cargill Deicing Technology, the enhanced deicer is a salt product that is different from regular rock salt because it contains a prewetting agent and coloring agent. These additives help keep roads clear by providing a faster reaction time and longer residual effects and also help protect distribution equipment from damp salt corrosion.
The city applied the deicer throughout the season along with sand and salt. As winter continued, Lopez said they noticed melting took place much quicker because of the deicer’s residual effects. As a result, the city was able to conserve labor and costs by using less deicer, sand and salt.
“The deicer is formulated so it provides extra heat on the roads,” Lopez said. “It works very quickly. We’d start plowing at about 10 o’clock at night, and by morning rush, we had running water in the gutters and the streets were passable. Between storms there was enough residual to start melting as soon as it started snowing.”
With one season under their belt, the city of Topeka street division management team will continue to utilize their winter maintenance plan to service their area, which consists of more than 1,500 lane-miles. They also intend to include the enhanced deicer as a major plan component.
“Many of our neighboring communities picked up on the deicer based on the good results we had,” Lopez said. “Next year we all want to keep the deicer in stock. That way if one operation runs out, we can borrow among each other to make sure we’re using the best possible products to help keep roads safe and passable.”