Environment
6:00 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Spring Arrives: Winter's Impacts Left to City Workers

Crew tending to pothole in downtown Milwaukee
Crew tending to pothole in downtown Milwaukee
Credit S Bence

We don’t have to belabor how cold the winter was or how much snow it deposited, but there’s no glossing over the toll it’s taken on roadways.

Ghassan Korban is commissioner of Milwaukee’s Dept. of Public Works. He says crews have begun sweeping the street, the first step in spring maintenance.

The city has dispatched 17 sweepers. Korban says they’ll be “sweeping” longer this year than usual.

“Given the prolonged winter and the enormous pothole issues we’ve had; that typically generates more debris. So our operation which typically takes four to five weeks, may take a couple of extra weeks before the entire city is swept at least once,” Korban says.

The commissioner says crew were tending to potholes throughout the winter; but those fixes were temporary.

“For the most part the potholes that are repaired in the winter during cold and wet conditions are very temporary. The only available material – we call cold patch – is very pliable but it doesn’t adhere and stick to the pavement,” Korban explains, “ so more often than not we go back to that same pothole and replacing the material with hot mix asphalt.”

The wintery weather also required a great deal of road salt.

“We’ve exceeded 70 thousand tons,” Korban says.

He says it’s too soon to know whether an experiment involving cheese brine Milwaukee launched this winter to tackle snowy, icy streets was successful.

A small area of Bay View was treated with a combination of brine and salt.  The hope was that less salt would be needed, because the brine helps make it stick where you want it, instead of bouncing off the roadway.

“We used it very selectively, in a limited geographical area; but also we limited it to when temperatures were 20 degrees or over because we knew that was the time it would be most effective,” Korban says.

The commissioner says because of repeated storms hitting the area, DPW actually ran out of cheese brine before the season was over.

Milwaukee might be helping to lead a trend in winter road maintenance.

“I understand more people started looking for it; it became a popular product,” Korban says.