Thursday, February 15, 2007

Guest Post: Black Mark for Black Road Policy

Guest post by Susan Falkoff

Out-of-towners frequently comment on how, entering Watertown, they are delighted there is not a bit of snow on any of the roads. Our DPW Superintendent is proud of his “Black Road Policy” and he is often praised by locals, too, for doing a great job of clearing the roads.

While I hope that there are black roads today all the way from Steve's .08 acres to the hospital where his wife will soon deliver a baby (DPW take note!), heavy use of road salts visibly damages vegetation and also corrodes concrete and steel and harms beneficial soil organisms, birds, and aquatic life. Watertown spends a lot of money planting street trees and then allowing salting practices that make it impossible for them to thrive.

New Hampshire did an experiment several years ago and treated test sections of road with half the usual amount of salt on low-volume highways. Poorer driving conditions were noted on the test sections but safety was not significantly compromised. NH DOT concluded that reduced salt programs make sense where a highway is relatively flat, without hills and curves, and in a low speed/low volume section. Compared to country roads in New Hampshire, there must be a lot of those in Watertown. There’s more information about this study at