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Hitting the skids: Response to threat of slick streets varies

Staff writer

Area road departments took differing approaches in responding to the threat of severe weather caused by last week’s ice storm.

Kansas Department of Transportation started staggering employees’ shifts around noon Thursday. The move allowed KDOT to keep workers on standby in case of bad weather overnight, said Ashley Perez, public affairs manager for Kansas Department of Transportation District 2, which includes Marion County.

“That way they’re ready to start treating roads as soon as it starts freezing,” Perez said. “If it does rain, that’ll wash it off the roads. That’s why keep such a close eye on the weather.”

Marion County Road and Bridge department doesn’t treat roads ahead of time because it lacks storage, but employees sand roads if needed, county engineer Brice Goebel said.

“All we do is wait and see what happens then determine whether it’s worth putting the sand down or not,” he said.

In response to the predictions, Marion city crews put salt brine on city streets Thursday.

The county bought trucks last year with the capability to spread salt or sand on roads, but no building was built to store it, county commissioner Randy Dallke said.

“You have to have a building to store it,” he said. “Once you put wet sand and salt in the truck, it just freezes and won’t go through the truck.”

I thought we were going to build one this year, but that didn’t happen.”

An available building at Marion County Lake, or storage units made from a set of 50-foot pillars the county already received from Marion Reservoir have been explored as options, Dallke said.

Comparing Marion County’s response to bad weather with KDOT or surrounding counties is difficult since many have more money available to spend on treating roads, Dallke said.

“Some of them have townships and all the county has to take care of is the blacktop roads,” he said. “They’re also bigger counties and have a bit more funds.”

Many residents commute for work, which sends money outside the county, Dallke said.

“Look at our cities and there are only one or two in this whole county that have jobs,” he said. “I’m not talking one or two jobs; I’m talking maybe 50 or 100 jobs in their community. That’s only one or two towns.”

A hike might be necessary if improving the county’s roads, during good or bad weather, is a priority, Dallke said.

“If they want the money spent and their roads improved, they’re going to have to vote in some more tax money,” he said. “We don’t have any other income in this county, except for taxes.”

It’s important to stay current on weather forecasts when dealing with road conditions, Perez said.

“We keep a close eye on the weather because we don’t want to put treatment on the roads too early where it’ll wear off,” she said.

Drivers should mind the conditions regardless of whether there is salt or sand, Goebel said.

“It doesn’t matter how much sand or whatever else I put out there,” he said.

“If you’re going to drive really fast, you need to take that into consideration.”

Last modified Jan. 23, 2020

 

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