Both state and county transportation officials said their supplies are low. How low tends to differ, but neither crews seemed worried about running out before this winter is done.
The Illinois Department of Transportation in Decatur that covers state highways in Macon County has about 500 to 1,000 tons left of salt and just ordered another 500 tons. Road crews have already used almost 4,800 tons of salt this season.
"Salt-wise we've had a lot of snow this winter," said IDOT Operation Supervisor Gary Larson. "We've had two really mild winters and we probably used twice as much salt already than we normally would for the whole year."
Wednesday morning neither state nor county highways crews used a lot of salt to treat the roads due to falling snow and blowing wind. Once that stops, crews can start spreading more salt.
And if it's not how much salt crews have to work with that's an issue, it's when they can get more salt that can be a problem. The Macon County Highway Department said they just made their last order of salt, 270 tons. The salt supplier said they're not accepting any more orders of salt because they don't have enough. IDOT officials said their shipments are coming in slower because the river on which they travel is freezing.
"Compounding the problem, a lot of that comes down the Illinois river in barges," Larson explained. "It's froze up so it's slowed down that supply so it's slower getting supplies of salt than you are now."
IDOT crews use a salt brine to treat the roads. It helps the salt stick to the roads better. This mix can cut back on some of the salt crews use but still, they've been going through supplies quickly.
Thursday temperatures are going to drop, so in that case, when temperatures get below 15 to 20 degrees, the salt brine is not as effective. Therefore, IDOT crews will mostly likely switch to liquid calcium chloride to treat the roads.
Macon County Engineer Bruce Bird said salt supplies are lower than what he would like them to be this time of year.
"Last year, total, we might have used only about two or 300 tons," Bird said. "This year we've got a 1,700 ton supply plus what we had left over from last year so we've probably gone through 2,400 tons of salt."
The Macon County Highway Department uses a mixture of salt and sand to treat roads. But in a case like this when salt supplies are low, it uses more sand to stretch salt supplies. Bird said he's not worried about running out of salt or any materials to treat the roads. He added they will always have enough supplies to put on roads to keep people safe. It's just a matter of how much salt is in the mixture.
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