Road Commission prepared for winter operations

MANISTEE COUNTY — Though autumn-type temperatures lingered longer than usual, Old Man Winter is sure to make himself at home over the next several months.

With winter weather comes winter road conditions, and like clockwork the Manistee County Road Commission (MCRC) is prepared for its seasonal plowing, salting and sanding operations.

According to MCRC manager Mark P. Sohlden, trucks and equipment have been prepared, salt has been delivered and sand has been screened in preparation for winter maintenance on the county road and state highway systems in Manistee County.

“We’re sitting in good shape,” he said. “Right now we’re basically working on normal non-winter maintenance operations — patching potholes and things of that nature — while we wait for the weather turn.”

In preparation for the change, the MCRC has calibrated its truck salter/sanders; installed salt and sand spreaders (side delivery units) on its fleet of trucks; fabricated additional salt and sand spreaders to replace units that are in poor condition or damaged; and performed routine maintenance on truck mounted side snow wings as needed.

Sohlden said that 5,503 tons of road salt was delivered to the MCRC in October in addition to approximately 6,250 tons stored in their salt shed at the start of the winter for spreading on the roads when winter conditions require.

Approximately 3,250 cubic yards of sand was also screened this fall to supplement the current stockpile for winter maintenance. Some of the sand is mixed with salt to make a sand/salt mixture (winter sand) to spread on the roads, and some of the sand (without salt) is spread on the roads to treat slippery road conditions.

Wednesday’s snow flurries were some of the first of any substance so far this season.

“We had a few minor winter events in the past few weeks or so that we had to send out some of our trucks to treat the road,” Sohlden said, “but being winter has been holding off, we have been able to perform other routine maintenance.”

This work has included blading gravel and dirt roads that were in poor condition due to the heavy rains in October and parts of November; pothole patching; tree and brush removal; and minor drainage improvements.

According to Sohlden, the MCRC maintains approximately 847 miles of county certified primary and local roads and 83 miles of state highways during the winter for a total of approximately 930 miles. The MCRC also has jurisdiction over approximately 197 miles of county “seasonal roads” (low volume, poor quality two-track types of roads) that are not maintained during the winter.

He said during major winter storm events that cover the entire county — and depending on available staff and in-service trucks — the MCRC typically has 23 trucks working concurrently countywide. The fleet typically includes five trucks on the four state highways (U.S. 31, M-22, M-55, and M-115), four trucks on the four county “plow routes” (select paved county primary roads), and 14 trucks on the remaining county primary and local roads.

Two of the trucks perform second shift and third shift winter maintenance on the state highways when required and additional trucks are called in to assist on winter maintenance for the state highways on an as-needed basis.

The state highways and the county plow routes have the highest priority for winter maintenance, as compared to the remaining county primary and local roads.

The county paved plow routes that are maintained include all or a portion of Beers Road, Big Four Road, Coates Highway, Faylor Road, Glovers Lake Road, Healy Lake Road, High Bridge Road, Kurick Road, Lindy Road, Litzen Road, Marilla Road, Milarch Road, Nessen City Road, River Road, Simpson Road, Springdale Road, Thompsonville Road, Viaduct Road, Warfield Road, Yates Road, 9 Mile Road and 13 Mile Road.

Winter maintenance work is performed beyond normal MCRC working hours on an as-needed basis depending on the storm event, severity and timing of the event. Generally, winter maintenance is performed beyond normal working hours on the state highways and county plow routes, but isn’t performed on the remaining county roads unless there is a severe weather event.

Due to retirements over the past few years, the MCRC has recently hired three new full-time employees as well as three seasonal employees to assist with winter maintenance and other routine maintenance activities.

When road conditions require and temperatures allow, pure road salt is typically applied to the state highways and winter sand is typically applied to key locations on the county plow routes and other key paved county primary and local roads such as at intersections, horizontal curves, on hills, in roadway sags, on bridge decks, and at other critical locations as needed. Pure sand is also applied to gravel roads on occasions when needed due to freezing rain and other severe winter events that create slippery road conditions.

Sohlden asks for cooperation and patience from the traveling public during winter events and to drive according to the road and weather conditions. During severe winter events, he suggests one not travel the roads unless necessary.

Residents should also keep in mind that the practice of pushing snow onto or across the plowed portion of the roadway or shoulders is both dangerous and illegal (Act No. 82, Public Acts of 1978) and those performing this action could be held liable for property damage or personal injury resulting from accidents it could potentially cause.

To prevent accidents and property damage, Sohlden asks for cooperation from the residents and other snow plow drivers when plowing private properties adjacent to the state highways and county roads.

Residents should also routinely remove snow from around their mail and newspaper boxes so they are visible to the snowplow drivers during their snow plowing operations.


Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or

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