By Mike Kruzman /

Michigan’s longtime head of traffic and safety is sharing insights on keeping the roads plowed and safe as the winter storm continues on.

Mark Geib has 31 years of experience with the Michigan Department of Transportation, with many as the head of statewide maintenance. He was on MDOT’s latest Talking Michigan Transportation podcast sharing how they prepare for big snowfalls like today.

Geib said that MDOT has a strong culture of innovation and has become much more efficient in the past 15 years on how they use salt. A maintenance decision support system in plows gives drivers in-cab real-time advice on road and weather data and informs them on the rate of salt to put down, so they don’t put too much or too little.

He said they also take advantage of alternatives to the traditional road salt that has the dual benefit of saving taxpayers money and being better on the environment. A 23.3-percent salt brine they use brings the potential to save 30-40-percent on salt usage while getting equal to, or better, levels of service. Geib said that the state spends $25-million to $30-million dollars a year on salt, and that if they can save 30-40-percent, that’s a huge plus.

Geib said that with the environmental impact of salt levels rising in water, these efforts all work to cut down on that, calling it “a huge positive.” Other innovations like tow plows and wings on trucks allow for more efficient salt use and even the clearing of two lanes at a time. Geib said that MDOT partners with 63 county commissions and handles roughly 25% of the plowing, with their highest focus being the highways. He shared that many plow routes are 30-35 miles long, and that while they try to get out there ahead of it, they can’t be everywhere at once. Communications, Geib said, is key as they work with partners to make sure the roads as safe for the public as possible.

Hear the entire podcast here: