Yes, Connecticut roads are more snow covered in storms

Snow covered part of Interstate 95 in Stonington Saturday evening, when the pavement was clear in Rhode Island. (David Collins/The Day)
Snow covered part of Interstate 95 in Stonington Saturday evening, when the pavement was clear in Rhode Island. (David Collins/The Day)

Driving home from Boston Saturday, through the tail end of the day's slight snowstorm, I couldn't help but notice the significant difference between the plowed state of roads in Connecticut compared to Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Indeed, passing over the Connecticut border on Interstate 95 was like crossing into a different climate, from wet and bare roads to ones covered with a fair amount of light and drifting snow.

My first thought was to make yet another unflattering comparison between Connecticut and Rhode Island, the little state to our east that seems to be able to do everything we can't here, from solving its pension crisis and taxing interstate trucking to ponying up college tuition assistance.

This widening divide in the prospects of the two neighboring states couldn't be more obvious in Stonington, where crossing the border from the busy Westerly downtown into near-blighted Pawcatuck, with all its vacant storefronts, is more like arriving in a different country than another state.

It doesen't seem that long ago that it almost seemed the other way around, from rich Connecticut to poor Rhode Island.

They are even better in Rhode Island at snow removal in a storm, it looked to me Saturday night, as I gripped the wheel a little tighter after arriving in Connecticut.

It turns out, though, that the difference between the condition of the roads in Connecticut and its neighboring New England states is apparently by design, not haphazard or the result of neglect or budget cuts.

Indeed, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation told me this week that Connecticut limits its use of salt on the roads to 200 pounds per lane mile, which turns out to be as much as less than half what some other states use.

Keven Nursick, DOT spokesman, said this formula, which is firmly established as Connecticut's official storm response, is based on scientific analysis. The only chemical upgrade occurs when it is very cold, and another gallon of liquid magnesium chloride is added.

The effect of this modest treatment is that there indeed may be snow remaining on the road in the midst of a snowstorm, Nursick said. The goal is not to get down to wet and bare pavement.

Rather, Connecticut is trying to achieve a balance between clearing roads and protecting road infrastructure and nearby watercourses. The lower salt mix should also spare cars and trucks from additional corrosive exposures.

And so, Nursick assured me, it should come as no surprise that motorists in a snowstorm will find more snow-covered roads as they arrive in Connecticut, which apparently is more environmentally sensitive in its snowstorm response.

For Thursday's storm there won't likely be pre-treatment, because there is already so much material on the roads, in place for when the storm comes, he said.

The difference between Connecticut roads and those in other states has nothing to do with budgets or the amount of manpower the state is devoting to the storms, he said.

I'm glad to know that, I suppose. I am certainly glad to know that the difference between cleared roads in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and snow-covered ones in Connecticut is evidently at least by design, with a higher purpose, like cleaner water.

If only Connecticut could take such a high-minded and purposeful approach to solving its pension crisis, or filling all those empty storefronts in Pawcatuck.

This is the opinion of David Collins

d.collins@theday.com

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