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MnDOT revises terms to describe winter road conditions

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has revised the terms it uses to describe winter road conditions on its 511mn.org website and smartphone app.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has revised the terms it uses to describe winter road conditions on its 511mn.org website and smartphone app.

MnDOT said the change is intended to make the descriptions less subjective and give them plain meaning. The public didn’t always understand the terminology or look at the meanings listed on 511.

The old descriptions were "good," "fair," "difficult" and "hazardous/travel not advised." The new descriptions are "normal," "partially covered," "completely covered," "travel not advised" and "closed."

"We were getting a fair amount of complaints," Kelly Braunig, MnDOT’s 511 coordinator, said in an agency news release Thursday. "An interpretation of good or fair might be completely different from person to person. We listened to our users and made improvements."

Braunig said MnDOT studied the terminology used in other states in the region and adopted those from Iowa.

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"We think the public will have a better understanding of the terms now," Braunig said. "It’s easier to understand that roads are ’partially covered’ rather than ’fair,’ or ’completely covered’ instead of ’difficult.’ "

Here’s a more detailed explanation of the new winter road descriptions:

Normal:

  • Dry or wet pavement. May include icy bridge decks.

Partially Covered:

  • Ice, sleet/slush, snow or mixture of these causing the roadway to be partially covered (up to 50 percent)
  • Roadway may become slick, snow-packed or rutted
  • Moderate blowing and drifting snow
  • Drivers may experience difficulty seeing road markings
  • Normal traffic speeds MAY be impacted due to visibility and precipitation

Completely Covered:

  • Pavement completely covered (i.e., rain, frost, ice sleet/slush, snow or a mixture thereof)
  • Sleet/slush means pavement is 100 percent wet and may have slick spots or standing water
  • Snow accumulation completely obscures the pavement markings
  • Heavy snowfall, strong winds, ground drifting and freezing rain make travel difficult and hazardous.
  • Normal traffic speeds WILL be impacted due to reduced visibility

Travel Not Advised:

  • Being on the road is dangerous
  • Ice covered roadways and near-blizzard conditions
  • Visibility below quarter mile

Closed:

  • Travel not allowed
  • Emergency vehicles only
Related Topics: WEATHER
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