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

We’ve asked the question before, and we’re asking it again to the New Jersey Department of Transportation as winter approaches: Will there be enough salt and brine to see the Garden State through the season?

Supply chain disruptions and staff shortages were the background last winter. Now it’s inflation.

NJDOT senior director of operations Chris Feinthel told New Jersey 101.5 that while transportation or delivery costs have increased this year, the increase in the price of actual materials has been small.

So the agency is working at full capacity for road salt while the holiday season beckons. That is around 335,000 tons.

“That would allow us to tackle 18 average snowstorms nationwide, and what an average snowstorm would be for us would be 24-hour non-stop plowing,” Feinthel said.

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

But because, as we’ve reported in the past, NJDOT spends months preparing for winter, he feels he’s in a good place.

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

The winter team works almost 365 days a year, Feinthel said, and that actually also applies to his trucks.

In warmer times, the 730 trucks that make up the DOT fleet are used for various activities across the state, but in the winter they are dedicated to snow and ice control.

“We’ve been working all summer and all fall to get to this point and we’re ready for whatever winter will bring,” Feinthel said.

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

It’s not that it’s going bad, he said, but because storage facilities are outdoors and exposed to the elements to some degree, old stock can cause damage to trucks and other equipment.

“We find that after five years things start to harden, they calcify a little. The salt will be difficult to use for our purposes,” said Feinthel.

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

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

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