Residents divided about ODOT putting salt on roads this winter

Medford, Or.-Safety is one of the main reasons why the Oregon Department of Transportation is expanding its salt pilot locations.

“I think the key issue here is safety and mobility for the public and mobility for freight,” Gary Leaming, ODOT spokesperson said.

The expansion will be from milepost 11 in Ashland to milepost 100 in Canyonville, as well as part of I-84 heading into eastern Oregon. ODOt says salt will be used a strategic tool this winter.

“Phase two gives us that additional tool for those hills north of Grants Pass, Smith, Stage, Sexton and also Canyon Mountain,” Leaming said.

For some residents the salt is a reassurance and an added layer of protection.

“I’m scared when people have accidents. You see it and it kinda freaks you out,” Krystal Hayes, Medford resident said. “To me the salt would be a lot safer for our tires especially for black ice.”

Others are divided.

Don Bechtel has been in the truck industry his entire life.

“Grew up in a trucking family,” Bechtal said. “Lived on a truck for the first five years of my life.”

He understands salt can improve safety but he also knows the impact it can have on your car.

“You see the results from those vehicles that have the salt and then ones that don’t,” he said.

ODOT says expanding salt use gives them one more tool in the toolbox as we head into winter, but adds it won’t be the first option.

“It will be used as the final option to prevent us from hopefully getting down to where we have to institute a chain requirement where that delays traffic and also freight,” Leaming said.

ODOT says its seen about a 60 percent decrease in accidents since it first started its salt pilot program five years ago.

NBC5 News reporter Karen Tang graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in communications and a master's in journalism.

Before coming to Medford, Karen was an intern at WUSA9 and NBC News Channel in Washington D.C.

During her time in Maryland, Karen was an NCAA Division I student-athlete on the Maryland gymnastics team. She competed against Big Ten universities and made the Big Ten All-Championship team.

When Karen isn't reporting, she’s at the gym working out, taking pictures with her dog Boomer and searching for the best food in Southern Oregon.

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