Ohio’s mild winter results in savings for roads, taxpayers

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio’s mild winter means that ODOT didn’t have to use as much salt to treat the roads. 

Statewide, salt usage in Ohio was down about 40 percent, and down nearly 50 percent here in Columbus. 

And what that means for ODOT is more time and money for other projects. 

Salt trucks in central Ohio are showing up to the barn not for a refill, but to drop off what wasn’t used this season

Matt Bruning with the Ohio Department of Transportation said, “As long as we keep it dry, it’ll be good to go next winter. So, that’ll save us and taxpayers money for next winter.”

Red lines along the walls of the salt barn show when it’s filled to capacity. They also reveal that even though the state has used more than 400,000 tons of salt this season across the state, it’s hardly made a dent in what’s available.

“There is no expiration date, so what you see behind me will simply be put on our roads next winter, assuming Mother Nature doesn’t throw us any curveballs this winter,” Bruning said. 

The stockpile will save time, resources, and money. 

“So far, we’ve spent just over $40 million less on winter this year than we did last year, so that money goes back into maintenance projects, allows our crews to pick up more litter, to patch more potholes, to repair more guardrails, those kind of things,” Bruning said. 

Those projects will keep crews busy all year round. 

“Since Feb. 14, our crews have been struck seven times around the state of Ohio,” Bruning said. “So, no matter what we’re doing, we really need people to pay attention to when they see our trucks, and they see our crews, give us the room we need to work.”

ODOT’s winter operations usually go from October through the end of April, which includes using more brine on the roads.

ODOT has found this is a more effective use of the salt supply they have because it allows them to be more precise with where it lands, and they only use a fraction of the salt because it is diluted. 

Drivers may have also noticed smoother roads compared to last winter. 

“The biggest issue, the biggest cause of potholes is the freeze-thaw cycle,” Bruning said. “So, when you have water that gets into the pavement, gets down inside, freezes and expands, and then when it thaws, it cracks the pavement.  We’ve had a lot less of those freeze-thaw cycles this year.  So that has boded well for our pavement, and allowed that to survive a little better.”

Not only has that meant fewer holes in the road, but warmer weather means the state hasn’t been using as much of the “winter mix” to fill potholes, and will be able to go right to filling them with a more permanent solution. 

We requested information about how much salt has been used so far this year, the cost of that salt, and the number of miles driven for winter treatment.  See the below chart for those numbers and how they compare to the last few seasons.

Statewide as of 3-1-2020
FY2017FY2018FY2019FY2020 TO DATEDifference from last FY
SALT USED (TONS) 499,903 842,591 710,963 418,199 -41%
HOURS 629,448 941,441 914,661 631,121 -31%
MILES DRIVEN 6,761,815 8,964,457 8,161,734 5,334,335 -35%
COSTS $63,737,260 $101,032,004 $100,547,213 $64,318,925 -36%

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