Winter Maintenance

Safe driving conditions are always a priority for the Road Commission of Kalamazoo County (RCKC), wintertime is no exception. In total, we are responsible for approximately 1,270 miles of snow and ice control. By monitoring weather forecasts frequently, we are able to meet winter’s challenges and implement an effective winter maintenance plan.

As part of our on-going winter maintenance assessments, we have identified a level of service to provide advanced coverage during peak travel and commute times. RCKC has incorporated a 3-shift program by adding a second and third shift during the winter months. Generally, plowing operations begin when slippery conditions exist, or snow levels reach about two inches on major roads. If snow continues to fall, or is predicted, we are prepared to respond accordingly. Special attention is paid to bridge surfaces as they tend to freeze more rapidly.

When snowfall occurs overnight, plowing begins at 12am so that the roads will be as clear as possible by the time most are starting their day. If weather or driving conditions warrant, we work with law enforcement to handle emergency situations. 911 handles emergency calls for the RCKC after regular business hours and can alert our team to respond to a particular problem.

The following priorities have been identified for winter maintenance:

1. Designated snow route roads  

2. Snow Maintenance Districts

  • Remainder of primary roads
  • Local Roads
  • Subdivision/Plat Roads
  • Dead-end and cul-de-sac roads

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why doesn’t the RCKC use more salt as it appears other communities are doing just that?

A: Salt, sand, and liquid deicer are applied as moderately as possible, without presenting unacceptable risk to the motoring public. The salt keeps the sand from freezing, while the sand provides traction to the vehicles. When the temperature drops below 20° F salt becomes less effective. The use of liquid deicer increases the melting capability at lower temperatures in addition to reducing the bounce and scatter of salt when applied to the road.  Recently, we have been made aware by Michigan’s Environment Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) representatives that EGLE’s aquatic biologists who conduct water quality monitoring have seen elevated chloride levels in Michigan lakes which has been noted as a concern statewide.  As an organization this is something we must monitor as part of our EGLE permitting activities and environmental care practices. 

Q: Why isn't my road plowed right away when it snows.  

A: Our first responsibility is to clear the snow route roads, a special network of main roads that includes more than 260 miles in the over 1,270 mile system under RCKC jurisdiction. Typically, local roads and streets are among the last to be cleared because they aren't as heavily traveled. (See Snow Removal Brochure)

Q: Why is the RCKC not salting and sanding every road in the county during winter maintenance?

A:  Certainly sanding and salting every road is cost prohibitive, however more importantly salting and sanding best practices indicate that road salts commonly used in the winter to melt ice and keep roads clear are potentially allowing the salt to reach groundwater and wells.  Sand potentially impacts the ability of storm drains to also function properly.  Not to mention our vehicles and the effects to our infrastructure.  Therefore, RCKC limits the use of both materials primarily at hills, curves and intersections without presenting unacceptable risk, while also protecting our surface and ground water.  Salt also has its limitations when temperatures are below 20 degrees.  For additional information on RCKC Environmental – Water Resource Protection please visit the Brochures and Other Materials page under the Resources tab of our website and our Winter Maintenance Brochure.  Reminder; the Michigan Vehicle Code Public Act 300 of 1949 reminds each of us that we shall operate a vehicle at a careful and prudent speed for various conditions – so please take it slow in ice and snow – drive for conditions.

Additional information may be gleaned from the RCKC Winter Maintenance Brochure.  You can also sign up to receive updates from the RCKC by signing up for RCKC Connect.

Current State of Snowplow Technology

Winter Tips

  • Always allow extra time for travel and drive for conditions.
  • Don’t crowd the plow. Plow drivers have limited visibility and they cannot see directly behind their trucks. Avoid passing or traveling next to a plow.
  • Never pass a plow on the right side, the wing plows are often hidden by the snow cloud being kicked up by the plow.
  • Do not park or abandon a vehicle or other objects in the right-of-way.
  • Keep children away from snow piles near the roadway; do not build snow forts, make tunnels, or play in snowbanks near the roads
  • Keep away from the edge of the roadway as you wait for the school bus, get the mail, etc.
  • Stay away from the end of the driveway when a snowplow is approaching.  Hidden objects under the snow, when thrown by the snowplow, can cause serious injury


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