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Super-freezing temperatures will reduce effectiveness of road salt

A car travels down snowy, icy Pine Street in downtown Traverse City on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024.
Ed Ronco
IPR News
A car travels down snowy, icy Pine Street in downtown Traverse City on Wednesday, Jan. 17. (Photo: Ed Ronco/IPR News)

Under certain conditions, road salt can be more hindrance than help for drivers.

A cold snap expected to last until Thursday could make for treacherous driving conditions across much of Michigan.

Officials are warning drivers to be aware of snow and ice, to slow down and to keep plenty of space between vehicles.

Tim Croze, the maintenance and operations manager for the Michigan Department of Transportation, said it is so cold that salting the roads is not helping.

He said salting roads becomes less effective when temperatures drop below 15 degrees.

“At times we can actually make things worse by applying salt,” he told the Michigan Public Radio Network. “You get a roadway that’s covered by snow and ice, you apply salt, that salt will start to melt as expected, but then it will re-freeze and you’ll turn snow into almost like glare ice.”

MDOT is responsible for maintaining interstate roads, U.S. highways and ‘M’ roads across the state of Michigan.

Anything else would be maintained by a local government such as a county road commission or a local municipality.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.