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Road salt used only in certain conditions

During the recent snow storms that shut down Siskiyou Pass and caused many delays, did they use salt to clear the snow? If so, was there a noticeable difference on the roads? When driving across the pass Sunday, I saw lots of red rock bits on the road that are normally used during the snow, so were both used together?

— Casey L., Ashland

There were some pretty stormy conditions on the roads over this past week, Casey, but the type of snow and temperatures weren't exactly right for the Oregon Department of Transportation to test salting the road for the first time, said Sally Ridenour, a spokeswoman for ODOT.

ODOT is planning to use salt on an 11-mile stretch of I-5 over the Siskiyou Pass and on U.S. Highway 95 in the southeast corner of the state as part of a five-year pilot project.

According to ODOT's online information about the pilot project, salt will be used only in certain storms, to stop the buildup of ice.

Salt will be used to soften ice into slush, which can then be easily plowed. Salt will be used only if snowpack is less than 1 inch thick and bonded to the road and if temperatures are between 20 and 30 degrees.

Salt isn't necessary if the roads are able to be cleared from snow and ice through plowing and sanding alone, as was the case in the storms over the past week.

The intermittent closures on I-5 were primarily at the request of the California Highway Patrol, which asked ODOT to hold back vehicles in Oregon because of severe weather in California, according to Ridenour.

Sprinkling sand and using deicer on the roads continue to be ODOT's primary methods during a snowstorm, Casey, which is why you saw red sand buildup on the pass Sunday.

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 youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.