City begins putting salt-sand mix on key parts of streets

With Saturday’s temperatures expected to reach the low 30s, city crews began Friday afternoon to put a salt-sand mix on selected locations of Wichita’s streets.

The mix will be placed on curves, bridges, hills and intersections on arterial streets, said Joe Pajor, deputy director of Wichita’s public works and utilities.

“The rest will continue to get straight sand,” he said.

The city has been putting only sand on the most-heavily traveled streets since a Tuesday storm dumped nearly 9 inches of snow on the Wichita area. A combination of low salt supply going into the storm and single-digit temperatures led city officials to decide not to use a salt-sand mix until Friday.

The salt’s effectiveness is limited by low temperatures.

The low salt supply was exacerbated by poor road conditions on K-96, which prevented the city from getting additional deliveries of salt earlier this week from its contracted supplier in Hutchinson, Pajor said.

But Pajor said the city began getting deliveries from Hutchinson on Thursday. The city also has been able to send trucks to Hutchinson to get additional salt, he added.

The salt and sand are mixed in Wichita. The city doesn’t put salt directly on the streets, Pajor said.

About 1,300 tons of sand has been delivered to the city daily the past few days to augment its supply, Pajor said.

Kellogg and other freeways in the city have been cleared off quicker than the city’s streets for several reasons, Pajor said.

Highways don’t have curbs and guttering so some of the snow was able to blow off, he said. Curbs and guttering on city streets form a bowl, allowing the snow to build up more, he said.

State crews handle the highways and are able to move at highway speeds without any traffic signals, while city crews have to travel much slower, Pajor said.

The city has 1,500 miles of emergency route streets to be cleared by crews, who have been working 12-hour shifts around the clock since Tuesday and using 50 trucks.

“It takes us 24 hours to plow every lane once for those 1,500 miles,” Pajor said. “As a result, we get more snow stuck in the bowl.”

The snow starts to pack before crews can get a plow back on those lanes, he said, and the low temperatures created the rest of the problem.

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