The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a colder-than-normal winter for Wisconsin with above-average snowfall in the eastern part of the state. Here at the Walworth County Public Works Highway Division, we start planning our winter maintenance service strategies when it’s still sunny and 75. Those months of planning and preparation ensure that we’re able to provide timely and effective winter maintenance services on all roadways so that motorists have passable roadways when winter weather events occur.
The Highway division is responsible for clearing snow from approximately 400 lane miles of County Trunk Highways and approximately 700 lane miles of State Highways. Maps of the routes we plow are available in our Winter Maintenance Manual at www.co.walworth.wi.us/331/Highway-Division. The primary goal of winter maintenance for the Highway division is to achieve passable roadways. This does not mean that the traveled portion of a roadway will be cleared to bare pavement. In fact, traveled portions of a roadway and/or bridges will, at times, have snow and/or ice creating slippery conditions. A “passable roadway” is defined as a roadway surface that is free from as much ice and snow pack as is practical and can be traveled safely at a reasonable speed; “reasonable speed" is defined as a speed that a vehicle can travel without losing traction. As such, drivers are advised to drive safely according to current conditions.
The traveling public also has responsibilities during winter weather events. It is illegal (Wis. Statute 346.915), for example, to follow a snowplow closer than 200 feet upon any roadway having a posted speed limit of more than 35 mph if the snowplow is actively engaged in snow/ice removal. Motorists should also limit their travel as much as possible when hazardous conditions exist. This can be accomplished by asking the question, “Do I really need to drive in this weather”? If so, drive carefully and reduce your speed according to conditions and below the posted limits.
Winter weather is unpredictable and the actions taken for each event relate to current conditions, types and amounts of precipitation, pavement and ambient air temperatures, and the pending forecast. All of these variables create singular challenges; however, each event elicits a response guided by a program established over the course of many years. Each fall, the Highway division reviews its winter maintenance manual and makes necessary alterations to encompass changes in staff, snow removal strategies, and the efficient integration of new equipment. As has been the case for the previous three winters, continued focus on the effective integration of salt brine applications into the winter maintenance strategy will continue in the upcoming winter. Additional materials are added to this salt brine solution to further reduce the freezing point and increase the effectiveness of salt applied to roadways. Beyond the improved effectiveness we expect to achieve using brine, it is our intent to reduce overall salt usage to protect Walworth County’s lakes and streams from the long-term, negative effects of salt products.
Please contact the Department of Public Works at (262) 741-3114 for any additional questions or information.