CDOT Maintenance Crews in Larimer County Prepared for the Winter Ahead

November 10, 2010 - Northeastern Colorado/CDOT Region 4 - LARIMER COUNTY — Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) maintenance crews in Larimer County are prepared for the winter ahead.

There are 44 maintenance employees dedicated to plowing and de-icing state highways in Loveland, Fort Collins, Berthoud, Wellington, Poudre Canyon and Cameron Pass.  To help crews combat snow and ice along 1,908 lane miles of highway, a variety of equipment and products will be used throughout the winter.

“Our tools and equipment are critical components of our winter maintenance activities, but our crews get the work done” said CDOT Maintenance Tom Aguilar.  “During a storm, they work 12-hour shifts day and night and on holiday and weekends until our highways are clear of snow and ice.”

CDOT always treats and plows primary roads first such as I-25, US 287 and State Highway (SH) 14.  Secondary routes include SH 1, US 34, SH 56, SH 60, SH 392 and SH 402.  Highway segments with an annual average daily traffic (AADT) count less than 1,000 will experience limited snow removal operations. For the most part, CDOT crews will maintain these highways 14-hours a day, from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. (exceptions may be granted for school bus routes, highway segments with high accident rates or hospital/emergency routes).  To see a complete list of highways with limited plow coverage, visit

To help maintenance crews combat the snow and ice, CDOT will continue to use liquid de-icers, solid de-icers, and a sand/Ice Slicer mixture. The two main types of liquid de-icers that will be in used this winter are magnesium chloride and cold temperature magnesium chloride. Magnesium chloride* is effective at pavement temperatures above 16 degrees Fahrenheit while cold temperature modified magnesium chloride* is effective for pavement temperatures below 16 degrees Fahrenheit.  Trucks are equipped with infrared sensors to monitor ambient and pavement temperatures throughout a storm.

The two types of solid de-icers that will be used are Ice Slicer and North American Salt.  Both are granular salts mixed with magnesium chloride.  Ice Slicer is primarily used for pavement temperatures 20 degrees Fahrenheit and below while North American Salt is primarily used for pavement temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  In some areas, crews will mix the solid de-icers with sand for increased traction.

To disperse these various products, the maintenance crews will use 37 pieces of snow removal equipment.  Of the 37 pieces, 25 are snow plows used to apply solid and liquid de-icers.  There are also seven loaders, two motor graders and a snow blower for the removal of heavy or large amounts of snow.  Crews use two sweepers clean up material following snow storms.

“We tend to use more liquid de-icers than any other product and as a result we have storage capacity for 180,000 gallons and we have seven plows that hold 1,000 gallons of liquid de-icer,” added Aguilar.  “However, are equipment is versatile and several of our trucks can dispense both solid and liquid de-icers to make it easier for our crews to handle all types of snow storms.”

In addition to the products and equipment, CDOT utilizes real-time technology called the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS), which combines advanced weather prediction, advanced road condition prediction and rules of practice for anti-icing and de-icing to generate road treatment recommendations on a route-by-route basis.  The goal of MDSS is to provide more effective use of maintenance resources in order to increase safety, reliability and mobility on roadways.

The MDSS system allows crews to input real-time conditions, including road and ambient temperature, type of snow removal products being used and the application rate.  After comparing the information to 15 weather reports, the system will then provide suggested treatments based on the information and models.  The system may tell the operator to re-treat the road at a later time, apply different products at different rates or even to continue current procedures.  The suggested treatment can then be followed or the operator can override the system.  Twenty one trucks are equipped with MDSS this year.

Last year, CDOT used approximately 374,300 gallons of liquid de-icer, 6,742 tons of solid de-icer and 562 tons of the sand/Ice Slicer mixture.  Crews also plowed 795,717 lane miles in Larimer County.

While CDOT is prepared for the winter ahead, it is also important for motorists to be prepared. CDOT strongly encourages motorists to plan ahead by visiting or by calling 511 anywhere in Colorado. Current road and weather conditions are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week via the Web and phone.

You can also sign up for e-mail and text message alerts by visiting and clicking on the cell phone icon in the upper right corner under the search function.  You can then subscribe to any of the lists free of charge (standard text message rates do apply).

Here are a few winter driving tips to remember:

  • Be sure to carry plenty of windshield wiper fluid as liquid de-icers may stick to your windshield.
  • Let the snowplow drivers do their jobs by giving them extra room and don’t pass on the right.
  • Slow down! Even roads that have been treated with liquid de-icers may be slippery.
  • Be prepared. Have a scraper, snow brush, coat, hat, gloves, blanket, first aid kit, flashlight, tire chains, matches and nonperishable food in your car.
  • Make sure your tires have good tread.

For more information about CDOT’s snow removal plan including equipment and products, visit

**Snow Removal Products:

Magnesium Chloride in solutions up to 30% - Effective for use down to 16 degrees Fahrenheit pavement surface temperature.

Cold Temperature Modified Magnesium Chloride in solutions up to 27% magnesium chloride - Used when surface temperatures fall below approximately 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Products meeting this description have a corn procession byproduct additive that greatly lowers the freezing point of magnesium chloride.

Ice Slicer and North American Salt - A solid product that is mainly sodium chloride with small amounts of other materials that help this product to work at lower temperatures than pure sodium chloride. It is used to melt ice pack at curves and intersections and other spot locations that make it difficult to de-ice with liquids.

PM 10 non-attainment areas.  Ice Slicer tends to remain in place and persist longer between applications than liquids.