It's true: The roads are actually worse Tuesday than they were Monday -- and that's because of something the Minnesota Department of Transportation calls "compaction."
The ice that has made for many bumpy rides is essentially bonded like concrete to the roads by the cold, but MnDOT officials say they could not stop the perfect packing snow from getting packed down before the temperature plummeted.
"We did have the third largest snowfall in December's history, and part of our problem was: We had a pretty good rate coming down on Sunday," explained Kent Barnard, of MnDOT. "We had a very heavy, wet snow and the temperatures dropped that evening and did create some snow compaction on the roadways -- and it becomes a little more of an issue for us to try to get it off."
There are currently 250 plows in the metro, and they've been constantly to apply chemicals that can seep into the compaction and break it up; however,
In St. Paul, public works crews have been working tirelessly to spread 900 tons of specialized salt on the street. That's nearly three times what they use for the average snow storm, but now they need Mother Nature's help -- and your patience.
St. Paul city engineer John Maczko issued the following update Tuesday:
Since last night we have been applying chemical to the arterial streets to try and break the icepack. I say chemical, because we are using more expensive treated salt that is more effective at lower temperatures than regular salt alone.
It has been repeatedly commented that the roads seem worse today than yesterday. That is a true statement, particularly at the intersections the roads are worse. The temperatures overnight caused what had snow had started melting to freeze as ice. The situation at the intersections is then made worse as drivers accelerate spinning their wheels and when they don't move as fast as they thought accelerate even further creating more heat and water making the situation worse - Not better. (Tip: when at an intersection and stopped take your foot off the brake and let the car begin to move on its own and accelerate slowly. If wheels start to spin back off the accelerator until car starts moving again)
This morning we began adding sand to our salt mix to provide some grit. As of noon we have placed just over 700 tons of salt on the street. This is almost three times the amount of salt we use in a typical snow event. While we are working on our salt conservation we are NOT going light on salt. In fact, at 11am, we increased our application rate by 30% to 100% to help cut the thicker snowpack. The conditions at this time warrant the need for more salt and that is what we are doing.
As the temperatures rise and the sun comes out (which hasn't happened yet) the roads will improve but it is going to take mother nature's help and time.
Tonight we will be plowing and using the road graders we have on pre-emergency routes (major streets) to get any slush moved out and apply more salt as needed. Temperatures tomorrow through the end of the week are expected to moderate which will help.
In addition to our work on the major streets we are also responding to hills and areas around schools that have problems as well as called in complaints.
I can assure you that all of us in Public Works are doing everything humanly possible with the resources we have to get back to normal as soon as possible. We are not alone in dealing with this problem as it is a problem across the metro area. We ask for your patience and understanding. (and if you have any pull with mother nature it would be appreciated)
John P. Maczko, PE , PTOE