MDOT says road salt storage sites need work

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
About half of Michigan’s road salt storage facilities are in poor condition. The critique comes from the Michigan Department of Transportation and was included Thursday in a report from the state auditor general.

Nearly half of Michigan’s road salt storage facilities are in poor shape, according to a state audit released this month.

The review by the Office of Auditor General, conducted from October 2015 to March 2018, showed that of 189 county-owned salt storage facilities the state uses for its roads, 90 are in poor condition. 

“Salt storage facilities that are not structurally sound could be a safety concern to employees,” the report states. “Salt storage facilities that are not fully accessible and functional could impair winter maintenance operations, which may have a downstream effect on the safety of the traveling public.” 

The Michigan Department of Transportation contracts with county road commissions in 64 of Michigan’s 83 counties to maintain its roads. A portion of salt stored at these county facilities is dedicated to road salt used for state roads. MDOT participates in funding the upkeep and maintenance of the buildings.

The audit assessed the conditions of each facility, including: flooring, walls, truss, roof, lighting and the ventilation system.

The buildings in poor condition had varying issues including holes in the roof or walls and/or cracked, deteriorated or broken structural supports or trusses, MDOT spokesman Jeff Cranson said. The report shows that buildings in poor condition are located throughout the state.

“Just like someone’s house, the sheds need to be kept up on a regular basis,” Cranson said. “Decades of under-investment in transportation infrastructure — at all levels — have taken their toll on road maintenance budgets so the overall condition of the sheds is much worse than it should be…

"The concern is that some buildings are to the point where continued degradation will further escalate repair costs and the buildings will become unsafe to use and adequately store salt in a way that prevents it from becoming an environmental issue.”

As a part of the state’s 2018 budget, MDOT received $2.5 million for salt storage facility rehabilitation. There is also a $2.5 million allotment for 2019.

MDOT estimates the cost to rehab 152 facilities will be $4.7 million with the cost ranging from $500 to $228,000 per building. By comparison, MDOT estimates a replacement of 71 facilities will cost $61 million.

Cranson said that a $5 million rehabilitation project will take place during the next two years. 

"The rehab planned is minimal to make structures safe and operationally sound — just to buy time," he said. "MDOT engineers hope these repairs will help structures last another five to 10 years even though they will still be in rough condition."


Twitter: @CWilliams_DN