Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The problem with the roads in Minnesota

Driving during the winter months in Minnesota can be bad. Really bad. Factor in below zero weather and it gets even worse. I went on a bit of a social media rant this morning after seeing five vehicles in the ditch in the course of a few miles about the highway conditions. I am well aware that highway crews have been working tirelessly since the first snow fell last Wednesday but nearly a week of doubling and tripling commutes for drivers in all corners of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is ridiculous.

I know all to well about the chemistry behind salt's effectiveness in melting ice. Once the temperature hits single digits, salt is virtually ineffective at melting anything but its cousin, Magnesium Chloride, works at far lower temperatures. The city of St. Paul plans to use it in supposedly large volumes to improve driving conditions in the city and with the reports of the state of Minnesota now having a surplus of nearly $1 billion the time seems right to experiment.

While I am painfully aware that government, just like any large organization, it not nimble enough to move fast enough to correct the wretched condition of many of the state's ice-packed roads and highways before temperatures skyrocket towards 20 degrees in a few days, having at least the option to use larger volumes of magnesium chloride in the future seems like a wise investment in the safety of the state's drivers.

I have no intention of being overly critical of the job being performed by MNDot's snowplow drivers because I am familiar with the challenges they face. My dad worked nearly 15 years plowing snow for the rural area where they reside and the long hours coupled with sometimes constant complaints about the conditions of the roads makes for a truly thankless job where the end result feels like you are pleasing nobody but with some advanced technology I like to think that the end result can lead to a bit less griping from Minnesotans.

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