P.E.I. government planning drastic cut to road salting

In the provincial legislature today, the Opposition accused the province of planning to slash the amount of salt it plans to put on Island highways this winter - and it turns out that information is correct.

Province says review showed some drivers spreading twice as much salt as required

P.E.I. road crews had to deal with record snowfall last winter. (CBC)

Opposition Leader Jamie Fox says he's received information the province is planning a "drastic cut" in road salting — and he's right. 

"Is this an evidence-based change or another budget-driven decision that could affect the safety of Islanders, especially school buses?" asked Fox in the provincial legislature Tuesday. 

Transportation Minister Paula Biggar said that her department is always assessing needs, and focuses on applying salt and salt brine to P.E.I.'s most-travelled roads. 

"To my knowledge, we will continue on, as needed," said Biggar. 

But it turns out Fox is right, and big changes are being made this winter said Director of Highway Maintenance Darren Chaisson. 

Chiasson said a review done by this past summer showed that some salt truck drivers had been spreading a lot more salt on the roads than required. 

P.E.I. Director of Highway Maintenance Darren Chaisson says drivers will spread less salt on Island roads this winter. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

"The application settings on the trucks, we have streamlined them," he said. "We've basically made it more consistent across the province, because there was a lot of inconsistency in the spread rates." 

"The rates in the trucks may have changed, but the rates that we prescribe have not." 

Some trucks were using twice the recommended amount of salt, said Chaisson, and a lot of the salt was ending up in ditches.

He said traffic safety will not be compromised, that the lower setting is more economical and better for the environment. 

"It's no different than salting your walkway," said Chaisson. "Doubling up the salt is not going to get the ice to melt any quicker."

"We are ready, I can assure the travelling public and all Islanders, for any snow event that will occur this year," said Biggar in the legislature. 

With files from Pat Martel


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