Wisconsin DOT Battles Rising Road Salt Costs
You're not the only one. Two years into the pandemic, most of us have noticed the lack of products on store shelves and the rising costs of goods. Those same shortages and high prices can also have an affect on state agencies.
Perhaps better than any other part of the country, Northlanders are no stranger to the wide spread use of road salt to combat icy conditions on our roadways. Living in a climate like ours, it's a necessary tool in the arsenal to keep traffic moving - both personal and commercial.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation recently shared some data on their social media site about the costs of that road salt and the ways in which it is combating it - using both technology and "best practices". The state agency shared that salt prices have risen sharply over the years. Their quoted percentage is an increase of "173% over the last 21 years". And while that seems like a long period of time to put in comparison, that averages out to a more than 8% rise in costs on average per year.
One of the ways that the Wisconsin DOT uses "best practices" to fight rising costs and be more efficient is with the use of brine to treat icy roadways. Where in years past, salt was directly applied to the roads of the state to provide melting and traction, it's usually mixed with water these days to form a brine.
That brine solution equals big savings for the agency. According to their shared details, $1,000 worth of granular road salt can clear 81 lane miles. However, when mixed with water to form a brine, that $1,000 worth of salt in a brine solution clears 213 lane miles.
Cost savings in ways like this help the DOT stretch taxpayer dollars further. With more than 30,000 lane miles of state, federal, and interstate highways to take care of, those savings add up.
Each winter - on average - the Wisconsin Department of Transportation used 526,000 tons of granular road salt and 14,000 tons of sand.
On of the age-old questions that seems to always come up is when is salt used and when is sand used to combat slippery roadways. Here's a breakdown direct from the Wisconsin DOT's website:
- Salting is cost effective down to a pavement temperature of only about 15-20 degrees. It takes about 13 times more salt to melt ice when the pavement temperature is 0-degrees than when it is 30-degrees.
- Sand is sometimes used to improve traction on ice. However, it only takes about 30 vehicles traveling at highway speeds to blow the sand off the roadway.
Taking these two considerations into account and it helps the average driver see what sort of decision making process goes into the salt-or-sand determination.