"The Road" Newsletter -- December 2022

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December 2022 | Volume 12 | Issue 12 | Bookmark and Share

A look at OCRC winter maintenance operations

snow plow

Winter officially starts later this month, but OCRC crews have already been hard at work clearing area roads of snow and ice as we close out the year.

As winter and the potential for more snow in Ottawa County inches closer, we'd like to take this time to review the OCRC's winter operations.

Many snowstorms can last 24 hours or more. This means quite a bit of work is needed to clear the more than 1,700 miles of county roads and 521 lane miles of the state highway system of ice and snow.

Our hardworking team of snowplow drivers can work long shifts of 16 hours in the worst weather conditions during these winter weather events. Each season our team will respond to as many as 50 winter maintenance callouts.


The operations staff has a variety of tools at their disposal to monitor the ever-changing road and weather conditions.

Staff use professional weather monitoring services, monitoring conditions while out on the road, and use roadside sensors that can transmit temperature, image and weather data for key roads and bridges across the county.

These tools are crucial in helping our maintenance staff know when and where to allocate crews. It also allows crews to make important decisions on the use of de-icing agents and other materials, all of which require us to balance the need for traffic safety while being conscious of environmental and financial concerns.

In a typical winter season, the Road Commission can use about 20,000 to 25,000 tons of road salt and 14,000 to 18,000 tons of sand.

The cost of winter maintenance can easily exceed $3.1 million annually depending on the severity and frequency of winter weather, plus the price of salt and fuel.

Plowing Priorities

Our crews conduct winter maintenance in accordance with an established priority system based on traffic volume, road classification and location.

The priorities are, in order:

  1. State Trunklines (i.e. I-96, I-196, US-31, M-45, M-231)
  2. Multi-lane Primary Roads
  3. Primary Roads
  4. Local Paved Roads
  5. Subdivision Streets
  6. Local Gravel Roads
  7. Dead End Streets and Cul-de-sacs

Please keep in mind that it can be upwards of 48 hours after the conclusion of a snow event for our team to make it all the way through our road network. We remind folks to be patient and use caution when out in all winter weather events. 

Green flashing lights guide the way to safety

OCRC Plow Truck Laser

Have you ever noticed the green strobe lighting on Road Commission trucks and equipment during snow removel and other roadside maintenance activity?

These green lights are meant to help our crews be more visible -- especially in wintry conditions where visibilty can be extremely limited.

Research shows that the green cone in the human eye is the most sensitive and has the longest wavelength. This means green lights appear brighter and can be seen from a greater distance compared to other light colors. This makes green lights suitable for enhanced visibility in inclement conditions such as a snow storm.

If you see blinking or flashing green lights, be sure to slow down, be vigilant and steer clear of the road work, but also take care to stay on the roadway.

Don't forget to practice safe driving techniques!

Don't crowd the plow OCRC graphic

As our team gets busy plowing the roads during the winter, we remind motorists to do their part to keep travel safe.

Icy road fatalities account for more deaths (3.6 times more) than all other weather hazards combined in the US.

Prepare for the road this season by following these tips:

  • Do not attempt to pass snow plow vehicles while they are plowing. Never attempt to pass a snow plow on the right.
  • Do not crowd the plow! Plow drivers have limited visibility and they cannot see directly behind their trucks. Please be aware that snowplow trucks may back up at intersections.
  • Be sure your windshield and other windows are clear. Also ensure that washer fluids are full, tires have proper air pressure and tread, and your vehicle is equipped with essential emergency equipment.
  • Drive for the conditions at hand. Posted speeds are for ideal road conditions. Michigan law requires motorists to drive at a “careful and prudent speed” in all conditions. Reduce speeds and increase following distances.
  • Accelerate and brake slowly. Avoid over-steering.
  • Beware of ice patches and “black ice”. Bridges and overpasses freeze first.
  • Avoid distractions. Don't talk on your cellphone or text and drive.
  • Always wear your safety belt. Also ensure all passengers are properly buckled, and children are in appropriate child-restraints.

Avoid the dreaded 'second shovel' this winter

CRAM avoid the second shovel graphic

The sinking feeling you feel when the end of your freshly shoveled driveway is buried in snow from a passing plow truck can easily be avoided.

To avoid this dreaded "second shovel," simply clear an area before your driveway large enough for the snow coming off the snowplow blade to be deposited (to the right as you face your home or business).

Additionally, shovel your snow in the direction of traffic flow, depositing snow to the left as you face your home or business. 

This is also the best location to place your mailbox in order reduce the possibility of damage. However, be sure to check with the U.S. Post Office first before moving your mailbox, as they may have certain requirements for the placement of the mailbox and where it needs to be located.

To help illustrate these best practices, you can refer to the above illustration created by the County Road Association of Michigan, which shows the best way to manage snow removal in your driveway.

A little strategizing while shoveling your driveway can save you both time and frustration at the end of the day.

Final OCRC 2023-27 SIP now available online

SIP 2023-27 Cover

The final version of the Ottawa County Road Commission 2023-27 Strategic Improvement Plan is now available on the OCRC website.

Click here to download the new plan.

The SIP identifies the county's transportation assets and their condition, and indicates how the Road Commission plans to maintain and improve the overall condition of these assets.

The SIP provides a strategic blueprint from which OCRC can align funds and other resources to meet the objectives identified to improve, maintain, and preserve OCRC transportation assets.

The SIP highlights anticipated revenue sources, planned road and drainage improvements, expenditures for routine maintenance, traffic and safety, equipment, facility improvements, and