PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Bureau of Transportation said road salt worked well on icy roads Friday and the city will use salt in the future.
The city targeted specific areas where roads were particularly icy. Officials used more salt than they did during the historic snow storm in January and this time the salt worked better, they said. The January storm was the first time Portland used salt on roads.
On Wednesday, Commissioner Dan Saltzman, along with Mayor Ted Wheeler and other city leaders, held a press conference to announce a new “broader strategy” when it comes to handling winter weather.
“We're still learning how to deal with major winter weather events, I guess. It's still an evolving process here in Portland,” he said.
The biggest headline to come from that strategy: 100 tons of salt, which is now on standby at PBOT’s North Portland storage yard.
Commissioner Saltzman said the salt would be applied to three specific stretches of road, early and often during the next winter weather event. Those stretches are:
-North Going Street, from Interstate Avenue out toward Swan Island.
-SW Terwilliger Boulevard, from Capitol Highway to Dunaway Park.
-SE 112th Avenue, in Mount Scott area.
Officials did not specify how much salt would be spread on those stretches or how often it would happen, adding it would depend on weather conditions.
“We want to be careful,” said Commissioner Saltzman. “We want to make sure we're measuring impacts on water quality and on wildlife.”%
Environmental groups will be watching to see how the use of salt goes, and how it could affect our surroundings.
“It makes sense to take a look at how much salt is being applied, and specifically where. Local creeks could be affected and that is something that PBOT should be aware of," said Travis Williams, Executive Director of Willamette Riverkeeper. "If we are going to start using salt for deicing, and potentially increase that over time, the City should take a look at potential impacts to water quality and native species.”
PBOT says they will assess environmental impact after the storm.
“They've taken road samples in advance of this storm, they'll take samples afterward and hopefully help us understand if there is any environmental impact of this road salt test,” said PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera.
In January, PBOT said it was not impressed after testing salt on the roads. Officials said it did not provide a significant improvement.
PBOT administrators added they’ll also be ready, as early as Thursday night, to implement chain or traction tire requirements on SW Sam Jackson Park Road, leading up to OHSU and on West Burnside, between NW 23rd and the outer city limits.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said the city also is taking steps to get kids to and from school as much as possible, which was a problem during recent storms.
“We agree,” said Mayor Wheeler. “There are probably things we could do differently.”
The city will be expanding plow routes, about 340 extra miles on top of their already plowed 1,120, to clear the way for public school buses.
Long-term, Portland officials are also working to set up a mutual aid agreement with Seattle.
The deal would allow cities to share staff and equipment during extreme weather events.
At the same time, the Bureau of Transportation is working to setting aside $2.8 million during the next fiscal year, to purchase more snow removal equipment down the road.
“We do not know if this winter is just an exception or if this represents a new normal. What I do know is that Portlanders do expect us to be ready for whatever Mother Nature sends our way,” said Commissioner Saltzman.