MARQUETTE - Don't count on your road to be completely snow-free this winter. It all depends on whether the Michigan Department of Transportation has labeled it orange or blue.
"During a snowstorm or snow event, both the orange and blue routes will be treated exactly the same, 24/7 until the snow ends," said James Lake of the Michigan Department of Transportation. "The change after the snow event on orange: They continue to clean up until the road is clear, shoulder to shoulder. On the blue routes, they continue to plow until the road is safe and passable. There will be at least one wheel track clear in both directions."
Orange routes are considered roads of "international and regional significance," according to Lake. They are roads that connect centers of activity, such as U.S. 41 between Houghton and Sault Ste. Marie or Marquette and Escanaba.
A trail of snow plows drives down U.S. 41 from Harvey clearing the roads during a past winter. (Journal file photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
Blue roads are considered for "more local use" such as M-35 between Marquette and Gladstone or M-28 between Baraga and Ontonagon.
"We're trying to avoid overtime on blue roads for clean-up operations," Lake said. "The main goal is stay within the budget."
This change is an attempt to avoid another overdrawn winter budget, Lake said, as was the case last year. The $12 million budget set for the Upper Peninsula for last year exceeded $4 million, he said, "which meant we had to cut back non-winter maintenance activity such as mowing and sweeping."
This year's winter budget is set for $12.8 million, reflecting the five-year average for winter maintenance costs and last season's tough winter, according to Lake.
Jim Iwanicki of the Marquette County Road Commission, said he has seen the MDOT report on the changes sand has requested clarification on some issues. He said at this point he cannot say how this will affect his crews' snow plowing efforts.
"All winter operations as well as summer operations have gone up dramatically because of cost of fuel," he said. "We're all trying to do stuff smarter and better than the year before."
For more information, call 786-1800.