The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) will be heading into the upcoming winter storm season armed with new plows, additional drivers, automated pothole patching technology and the state's first-ever strategic salt reserve to protect against national road salt shortages experienced in each of the last two winters.
"As the weather continues to get colder, it's important we are prepared for snow and ice and have the resources we need ready to go to help Rhode Islanders stay safe," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "Creating Rhode Island's first road-salt reserve is a key step to plan ahead and protect against the national salt shortages we saw last winter. More salt, more plows, and more drivers are critical to keeping the roads safe for our families and keeping Rhode Island open for business. I applaud RIDOT for their work to innovate in government and place more emphasis on maintenance and strategic planning."
"Ensuring the safety of the traveling public is our highest priority at the Department and certainly in the forefront during storm events," said RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. "By establishing this reserve, in addition to the many other proactive steps we are taking as a department, we are better positioned to tackle winter weather and keep our roads passable."
20,000 Ton Strategic Salt Reserve
Last season Rhode Island experienced the second heaviest snowfall on record, and the frequency of storms combined with strained salt supplier issues quickly exhausted the state's salt inventory. With this new reserve in place, RIDOT will start the season with nearly double the amount of materials. The reserve is located at RIDOT's salt storage facility off of Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick, where 20,000 tons of salt has been stock piled. Additionally, all RIDOT salt storage facilities are full with material. In previous years, the state maintained an inventory of approximately 30,000 tons; enough to combat three average-sized storms. RIDOT is now heading into winter with 50,000 tons. This is the first-ever strategic salt reserve established by RIDOT.
Creation of a salt reserve is the latest in a series of RIDOT initiatives to optimize its winter operations and to more closely collaborate with municipalities. Earlier this fall, RIDOT hosted a "salt summit" with municipal leaders to discuss best practices and explore synergies for winter storm operations and access to road salt.
In recent years, RIDOT has modernized its winter fleet and installed GPS and salt-metering equipment on its plows to better control and track the application of salt, save money, and minimize the environmental impact of its operations. In addition, RIDOT now pre-treats roads with a salt-water mixture that can reduce the overall amount of salt required during a storm by more than 60 percent. Last winter the Department achieved its lowest salt application rate, cutting usage in half over previous years while saving the state more than $1 million. Salt is the most costly component of winter storm operations.
13 New Plow Trucks
RIDOT is heading into this winter with 13 new plow trucks, which will be added to RIDOT's fleet of 115 trucks. An expanded fleet will increase RIDOT's snow fighting capability, supplementing outside vendors during storms and provide additional coverage in case of equipment breakdowns.
40 New Maintenance Personnel
Additional drivers will be available for the new trucks by converting existing unfilled administrative positions into maintenance positions. A total of 40 positions – which represents 5 percent of RIDOT's total workforce – are being transferred to the Department's Highway and Bridge Maintenance Division for improved bridge maintenance, drainage cleaning, and repair and installation of pavement markings. During adverse weather, these employees will be available for winter storm operations.
5 On-Call Automated Pothole Patching Trucks
RIDOT also will continue use of automated pothole patching machines, with five trucks available this season. Following last year's harsh winter, RIDOT accepted bids for on-call pothole patching services that utilize the latest spray-injection technology to repair potholes more efficiently and safely while ensuring a longer-lasting fix. The patchers (which are controlled by a single operator from the cab of a truck) are capable of cleaning away debris and filling a pothole in only a few minutes.
This process provides a hot-patch equivalent in the winter months (typically unavailable from December through March), making this season the first that RIDOT is able to permanently fill potholes all winter long. This equipment provides a more durable and longer lasting patch than temporary repairs made using cold patch – which in the past had to be re-applied during the course of the winter until hot patch became available in the spring.
The Department continued use of the pothole patching machines on a limited basis throughout the summer months to focus on repairing potholes and cracks, freeing up RIDOT's maintenance forces for other important tasks such as drainage cleaning, traffic signal repair, overhead streetlight repair, road sweeping and grass cutting. To date, more than 18,000 potholes have been filled using this technology.
"Not only did the automated pothole patching machines increase our ability to repair potholes as quickly as possible, the repairs it made are much more durable than possible by hand, making them last dramatically longer and virtually eliminating the need to refill the same pothole," Alviti said.
For more information on RIDOT's winter operations, visit www.dot.ri.gov/winter.
Contact: Charles St. Martin (401) 222-1362, Ext. 4007