View Single Post
Old 02-07-2019, 03:15 PM   #4
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,957
This is an interesting issue, because it involves several dimensions: Safety, Cost, Environment, and Culture. Successful approaches to this will be guided by an understanding of all four of these.

For some history, here's a link I found that has a helpful review, free of the "advocacy distortion" that's so common:

Notable from the link:

"Before the 1940s, highway departments relied mostly on plowing and abrasives..."

"During the winter of 19411942, New Hampshire became the first state to adopt a general policy of using salt..."

"After World War II, as the expanding highway system became essential to the public and the national economy, road salt use began to soar. The bare-pavement concept, under which motorists could expect snow- and ice-free pavements shortly after storms, soon became a policy in most cities and their suburbs."

"Road salt use has leveled off during the past 20 years."

So nationwide, this is not a new issue. But after a few decades, environmental effects are (rightly) becoming a concern.

Important to note in this is that the expectation of dry roads is not being driven "top down", but rather has become part of the culture. Of course you can always find Luddites to say "just drive slower" and "just be late" and "I walked ten miles to school every day through waist deep snow." But these folks are a tiny minority. The cultural needle is not going to move back to 1940. The expectation of dry roads on the part of most of the public will remain.

Further, travel safety has become a legal liability expectation. If someone is hurt or killed in an accident, and their attorneys are able to link that to "inadequate ice removal from roads" then the municipality or other government will have a big legal problem n their hands. No government today wants to risk that. So as with the culture, the legal liability needle is not going to move back to 1940.

Now environmental concerns are widely considered to be important by a large part of the population. And experience has shown that people are willing to pay more in order to protect the environment. This is where the comparisons that are made between road salt and acid rain actually have some validity. Acid rain was largely resolved. It cost money to do that, and people showed that they were willing to pay. This is the avenue today for success with the salt issue.

What people today are NOT willing to do (by and large) is: 1. to be inconvenienced; and 2. to have their safety compromised.

So all this analysis offers some guidance to those who are advocating on the road salt issue. Coming to this issue from a point of trying to change the culture, or doing anything that risks safety, is a guaranteed losing approach. Advocates will expend all their political capital, and then one company moving out of state because it's employees can't reliably get to work, or one traffic death lawsuit, and the whole program will be out the window, with advocates cast as "tree huggers who don't care about jobs or safety."

The successful path here is to focus on the available technology to maintain the now required "dry roads" but with the use of less salt. Many technologies are out there which the earlier links don't discuss, including pre-brining, better timing of treatment, improved design plow blades, different chemical mixtures, etc.. The public has shown that they are willing to spend some additional money to protect the environment, and developing and implementing some of these better technologies is a program that can be sold to the public.
TCD is offline   Reply With Quote