Which Road to Plow First? NCDOT Explains

Every year about this time, when the winter weather descends upon North Carolina and blankets our state's highways, citizens call in and ask, "I need to get to work. When are you going to plow my road?" As much as our crews would like to immediately respond to every caller, we have a set snow and ice removal process in place.

NCDOT plows the following roads known as 'bare pavement routes' first:

  1. Interstates
  2. Four-lane divided highways
  3. Other routes essential to moving traffic

After bare pavement routes:

  1. Secondary roads/streets
  2. Neighborhoods

How did the NCDOT determine its priority order?

  1. Connectivity
  2. Traffic volume, amount of use
  3. Major business avenues and trucking routes
  4. Importance to hospitals and other emergency routes

Here's how we tackle the storm
The NCDOT works in conjunction with the National Weather Service to ensure to the best of our ability our 3,200 trained employees stay ahead of the storm by pretreating roads with a brine mixture to keep the snow and ice from sticking, then plowing and sanding once the wintry weather hits.

Why brine?
Based on recent winters and long-term projections, the NCDOT presets its budgets in advance for snow and ice removal, as well as pretreating operations. Since we like to save taxpayers money,brining is extremely cost effective. It uses less salt overall, which saves money and is better for cars and the environment.

  • To treat one mile of road: $.15 per gallon of brine v. $14.38 per mile of rock salt (Brine = 23% salt + 77% water)
  • Brining coats roadways better than over treatments
  • Lowers freezing temperature of water
  • More effective at keeping snow from refreezing
  • Buys time - we can brine as much as 48 hours before the storm hits as long as temperatures do not fall below 18 degrees and it is not raining. In most cases, rain will wash it off.

Interesting NCDOT Storm Fighting Facts

  • The NCDOT can store 162,000 tons of salt statewide
  • We use between 50 - 60,000 tons of sand and salt during a typical winter snow season
  • 1,900 trucks equipped with plows and spreaders
  • 325 front-end loaders and backhoes
  • 450 motor graders
  • Also outfit pickup trucks with snowplows to clear less-traveled roads
  • Plowing and brine spreading trucks are not multi-taskers. It can only do one thing at a time. If a plow has its blade up, then it's probably spreading sand and salt.

For more information, contact NCDOT communications at 919-707-2600.