‘Don’t crowd the plow’: Md. road crews share winter plans, advice for drivers

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Maryland road crews are already veterans of two snow events this season in counties farther west, and they said Wednesday that new tools and strategies will get the job done locally while also saving money.

Putting salt brine solutions to use more frequently will result in many benefits, according to Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Slater. 

“Salt brine is 23 percent salt, and the rest is just water,” Slater said.

Using less salt saves money, but Slater said an additional benefit is what happens to freezing or frozen precipitation that falls on roads pre-treated with brine.

“Instead of getting ice and snow, you get slushy material — much easier to manage, much easier to drive in,” Slater said.

Also, spraying down salt in the beds of big trucks before it’s spread on roads prevents waste from the “bounce and scatter” effect — saving salt usage by an estimated 30 percent.

“It creates an oatmeal-type substance, so when the salt comes out of that hopper, it hits and sticks,” Slater said.

And this season, Maryland has a total of 62 — 20 of them new — infrared sensors that track atmospheric and pavement conditions, such as changing road temperatures.

“It allows us to make really, really good decisions on when we’re deploying crews, what strategies we’re using and how we’re treating the roadways,” Slater said.

Now is the time for drivers to make sure vehicles are road ready for whatever winter might bring, Slater added. He recommends rounding up ice scrapers and jumper cables, and checking the conditions of things such as tires and windshield wiper blades.

Drivers are also being asked to be patient after storms, and give road crews time and space to do their jobs.

“Don’t crowd the plow. Be safe; give us some space,” Maryland State Highway snow plow driver Harold Bowens said. In wrecks with cars, the plow always wins, he added.

“The plow does operate like a can opener. Metal to metal is not a good thing,” Bowens said. “So you want to stay as far away as possible.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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