Columbia trying to go salt-only while MoDOT moves ahead with cinders

Friday, October 29, 2010 | 4:59 p.m. CDT; updated 2:07 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 30, 2010

COLUMBIA — We’re ready for winter was the the tone expressed by officials from the city of Columbia, Boone County and Columbia Public Schools as well as area law enforcement and emergency personnel.

The agencies met at the Activity and Recreation Center on Friday for an annual conference to discuss how they will coordinate efforts when cold weather brings icy conditions to the area.

On Columbia’s streets that effort should be cleaner than in years past, said Sam Thomas, street and storm water maintenance manager for the city. He said that this year, the city will not use cinders to treat icy roads.

Last year, the city used a salt and cinder mix for the first half of the winter and then moved to salt-only for the second half, said Jill Stedem, public information specialist for the city's Public Works Administration.

Thomas said public opinion influenced the decision to stop using cinders.

“The public does not like cinders because they’re dirty," he said. "But they do provide traction and don’t cost anything.”

They city will still keep a stockpile of cinders in case conditions such as extreme iciness or cold call for it. A new storage facility, a vinyl building, will allow the city to react more effectively to events calling for cinders, Thomas said.

“We can mix enough for that event, so we don’t have too much stockpiled,” Streets Superintendent Darrell Lampkins said.

Thomas said the city has 5,000 tons of salt stockpiled, but he will pre-order 2,500 more tons just in case. He said that in 2008, early river ice prevented barges from delivering salt to Columbia.

Thomas also said 13 roads have been added to the city’s snow routes in response to changes in Columbia Transit’s bus routes.

Although the city plans to move ahead with a cinder-free winter, Columbians may still see cinders on major roads.

“We try not to use cinders in town, but depending on a storm, it’s better to have traction,” said Dwayne Vandelicht, Missouri Department of Transportation superintendent.

MoDOT is responsible for state highways that run through the city, including College Avenue, Stadium Boulevard and Providence Road.

MoDOT has stockpiled about 600 tons of cinders. About half of those come from Columbia’s power plant, Vandelicht said.

Those cinders, mixed with salt and sand, might help MoDOT’s plan to use less salt than in previous years. By spending less money on salt, the department would have more money for roadway repairs next summer, Vandelicht said.

Another cost-cutting measure is that Boone County is one of two counties in MoDOT’s District 5 that will be allowed to replenish salt reserves from the headquarters, Vandelicht said.

“They know Columbia is important because it is so populated,” he said.

Columbia receives an average snowfall of 23 inches, but this winter has potential for more ice than usual, according to a prediction by Brain Kochel, weather center manager at Weather or Not Inc., who was also at the snow conference. The company provides daily forecasts and predictions for Columbia and Boone County.

Kochel presented diagrams showing the northern half of Missouri in a predicted nationwide cold pocket covering much of the northwestern U.S. and the southern half of the state on the edge of a predicted humid area covering much of the southern U.S.

“I guess it’s always great to look for the worst case and know you’re prepared for that,” Vandelicht said.

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