Winter road salt, brine, trucks in good stock, NJ officials say

We’ve asked the question before and are putting it to the New Jersey Department of Transportation again as winter approaches: Will there be enough salt and brine available to get the Garden State through the season?

Last winter, the context was supply chain disruptions and staff shortages. Now it’s inflation.

Chris Feinthel, NJDOT’s senior director of operations, told New Jersey 101.5 that transportation or delivery costs did indeed rise this year, but the prices of the actual materials rose nominally.

So the agency is at full capacity for road salt as the holidays approach. That amounts to about 335,000 tons.

“That would allow us to battle 18 average blizzards statewide, and what would be an average blizzard for us would be a 24-hour continuous shift event,” Feinthel said.

Feinthel admits that not every winter storm is caused the same and that the season seems to get deeper and deeper into March each year.

But since, as we’ve also reported in the past, NJDOT spends months preparing to be “winter ready,” he thinks they’re in a good place.

“We don’t like to drop our salt capacity below 80%, especially early in the year, because we never know what the future holds for us and the season can be long,” said Feinthel.

The winter team works almost 365 days a year, Feinthel said, and so do his trucks, in fact.

In warmer times, the 730 trucks that are part of the DOT fleet are used for various activities around the state, but in the winter they are dedicated to snow and ice management.

“We’ve worked all summer and all fall to get us to this point, and we’re ready for whatever winter brings,” Feinthel said.

In the event of a light winter in terms of snowfall, Feinthel said excess salt can be held in reserve for about five years.

It’s not that things are going badly, he said, but since storage facilities are outdoors and exposed to the elements to some degree, old stock could potentially damage trucks and other equipment.

“If we leave it after five years, things start to harden, they calcify a little bit. The salt just becomes difficult to use for our purposes,” Feinthel said.

One final PSA from the DOT: Motorists should stay home if they can during a blizzard, but if they must drive, give road crews room to work and slow down when passing.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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