Salt did help clear the way for I-5 traffic

Dear readers: In Wednesday's installment of Since You Asked, we informed you that the Oregon Department of Transportation had not yet implemented its plan to use salt on Interstate 5's Siskiyou Pass to help drivers traverse the mountains in winter. An ODOT spokeswoman told us that the salt had not been used because the conditions were not right for it: Salt works better on ice or firmly packed snow that is not too deep.

Well, we have one more thing to add to that response: Never mind.

Turns out that ODOT did use salt after all, beginning Friday and through the weekend, according to department spokesman Gary Leaming.

Apparently the spokeswomen we contacted earlier had her windows a bit fogged up by the inclement weather, or the message was garbled by the gale force winds that have battered the pass in recent weeks.

Mr. Leaming cleared up the fog and/or garble, writing: "As you know, we had an extraordinary amount of traffic traveling the pass because of the Christmas holiday, and the weather conditions were good for the use of salt, as another tool in our box — along with liquid de-icer, plowing and sanding the snow.

"While we cannot quantify the exact amount of time saved," he continued, "I think it's safe to say we were able to reduce the time and number of holds and chain requirements on the Oregon side to keep travelers on the go and off the shoulder, squatting near a travel lane chaining up in some very congested conditions."

All of those who avoided that ignominious task no doubt would send their thanks to ODOT. As do we to Mr. Leaming for setting the record straight.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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