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Salt wears down bridges; snow wears down lawmakers

The $8 billion transportation package includes a mandate to plow and salt roads when there's more than 2 inches of snow.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LESLIE BEARD - Light pillars from the Les Schwab Distribution Center on George Millican Road in Bend, Oregon, on Jan. 10, 2017.SALEM — The Oregon Department of Transportation has long avoided using salt on roadways because it can accelerate the deterioration of roads and bridges.

But Oregon's "snowpocalypse" in December and January seems to have eroded lawmakers' will to keep that policy.

As part of their 10-year, $8 billion transportation package, lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization have proposed a mandate to ODOT, and cities with a population of 160,000 or greater, to plow and salt roads when more than two inches of snow falls in a 12-hour period. The requirement is on page 280 of the 298-page bill. The legislation is scheduled for public hearings Monday through Wednesday, June 5-7, at the Capitol.

The severe winter conditions prompted Gov. Kate Brown to declare a state of emergency. Oregon also found itself at the butt of many East Coast jokes about the population's inability to function in the snow.