HOUGHTON — When the snow flies and most of us try and stay off the roads, road crews head out and make driving safer for everyone. ABC 10’s Keweenaw Bureau Reporter Rick Allen spent the day with one county road commission to see how it’s done.
What a difference a year makes. With the way last year’s winter began, the Houghton County Road Commission was already well on their way to spending $2.1 million in road maintenance.
With $1.7 million budgeted for this year, they are already seeing savings of roughly $100,000 this winter.
Most of the savings come at the pump, with only about 35,000 gallons of diesel fuel used this year compared to 51,000 last year.
Even without much snow until now, the crews have been keeping busy.
Houghton County Highway Engineer Kevin Harju said, “We have a winter maintenance policy on when we plow and our normal shifts. The delay in winter just enabled us to get some brushing done and some grading and ditching on roads that normally would have to have waited till next summer.”
A crew of 24 drivers start early in the morning and work into the afternoon…sometimes longer if there is a bad storm.
They use a mixture of about five percent salt and the rest sand and they have plenty of it for the winter.
But even though they have enough materials and manpower, it’s the aging equipment that can make maintaining the roads difficult.
Harju said, “Our equipment is really getting old and antiquated, so we’re hoping, with the new road funding coming through next year, we’ll be able to start upgrading some of the fleet to make it more dependable.”
There are 850 miles of county roads in Houghton County, and 750 of those need to be plowed during the winter.