Salting icy roads: Why the county and city have different jurisdictions

With the winter weather creeping up and decorating the streets with ice, drivers can often wonder: Just why are some roads salted, while others aren’t?

That’s because what you might think is the city’s responsibility, is actually the county’s.

“Basically if the county did the city, that would triple their workload and if we went out in the county, that would triple our workloads,” said Andy Bakalars with the La Crosse Street Department.

There were a little more than 100 calls for crashes to La Crosse County dispatch last Friday, due to the first snowfall and icy roads.

But when it comes to how icy roads are being taken care of, there are limitations, because salt is expensive.

So far this year, salt cost the city $64.89 per ton. It was $8.39 per ton for a salt and sand mixture.

If an ice storm is a quarter of an inch or less, the city will salt highways and use a salt/sand mixture for streets and hills.

But if it’s one to two inches of snow, salting the streets depends on density and temperature.

It’s slightly different for the county.

“We use salt/sand mix and salt or salt depending on the roadway we’re treating, the level of surface we’re trying to achieve, the traffic volume, the state highways that we take care of, the state’s policy is salt, they do not want to use sand unless it’s absolutely positively necessary,” said Ron Chamberlain with the La Crosse County Highway Department.

Of course time, is also always a factor.

“It’s a big city, we cannot get through the whole city in ten minutes,” Bakalars said.

The city of La Crosse has 225 miles of highway and residential streets under its jurisdiction.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation decides the jurisdiction for the county, and the local municipalities decide jurisdictions for the city.

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