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DOT’s Frozen Road Declaration allows more weight on highways during winter

DOT says the stability of pavement structure is increased in winter
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 3:09 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Seasonal weight restrictions have been relaxed in the north and central parts of Wisconsin. Once roads are frozen during the winter months the Wisconsin Department of Transportation allows heavier vehicles and machinery to be on the road.

Northcentral Region Operations Chief Shannon Riley said the weight limits typically apply to vehicles made to keep the roads safe.

“On a standard roadway, we would typically allow 80,000 pounds of gross weight,” Riley explained. “We would increase that to 98,000 for certain activities… mainly for winter maintenance activities.”

These include vehicles used for carrying abrasives or salt for highway winter maintenance and peeled or unpeeled forest products cut crosswise, according to the department’s website.

The Frozen Road Period begins in Zone 3 on Jan. 13. The Frozen Road Period will begin in Zones 4 and 5 when conditions warrant. The Frozen Road Period was already in effect in Zones 1 and 2.

Frozen road zones
Frozen road zones(WSAW)

Before the declaration can be made, the DOT has to test the roads.

“There are certain access points,” Riley explained. “We have about 91 of them located throughout the state and different zones where we can actually pull out the frost tube and measure the depth of the frost.”

The DOT has a live map on its website to inform truck drivers hauling heavy items if they are in a county that allows them to haul even more.

“The stability of the pavement structure is increased in the winter because of that solid pavement structure,” he said. “Where potholes and things like that come into play is with that defrost cycle. So, in the spring, it’s the opposite.”

Riley said this declaration is only for state highways. For local roads, each municipality will need to check with their county highway departments. He said most counties typically follow the state’s declaration.

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