Letter: Why are streets being salted when it’s not icy?

From: Noel Taylor


Once again we have salted streets without need here in Columbus. The forecast was for sunny days with temperatures well above freezing followed by rain on the weekend, yet the salt trucks have been out spraying.

In the past I’ve heard various explanations, ranging from National Weather Service-ignoring “we might get snow” to the alleged need for the residents of Columbus to be able to see clear evidence that the City Garage is doing something (as if bus service, trash pick-up and road repair are invisible). I’ve even heard the “we might get sued” mantra. I wonder what it is now. The need to avoid paying public employees overtime on the likelihood that the global warming folks are wrong? Simple irrational fears? Failure to pay attention to NWS updates?

The city of Concord, Massachusetts passed an ordinance against salting the roads back in the early 1970s. Their concern was valid as stated on three fronts: 1) infrastructure damage as salt penetrated roads and bridges and caused re-bars and other metal structures to rust, expand, break up concrete and fail; 2) environmental damage as run-off killed vegetation and contaminated municipal water supplies; and 3) accelerated structural and cosmetic damage to public and private vehicles. The ordinance was revoked after Concord was hit with huge lawsuits filed by people who still drove the twisty roads of Concord above the speed limit and crashed.

Personal convenience trumps the general public good any day, except when it doesn’t. Just ask any politician voting for more taxes.

Treating the city’s behavior as a good example, a local bank has its parking lot and sidewalks thick with rock salt today. I’m sure that will be useful to them when the rains wash it all into their dry wells tomorrow afternoon after they close. Maybe they’ll put it out again for the rains with temperatures in the 50s next week. Maybe the city will, too — you just can’t be too careful.