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Next time motorists are traveling behind a MoDOT snow truck, they might notice the road salt is a brown color.
That is because MoDOT is experimenting with beet juice to treat the roadways.
Apparently when mixed with salt brine, beet juice has the ability to melt ice at extremely low temperatures.
Regular salt melt consumers purchase in the store melts ice down to about 15 degrees. Beet juice allows the salt mixture to work in temperatures well below zero.
Local MoDOT District Maintenance Engineer Jim Burgess said the mixture is allowing the department to use slightly less volumes of salt brine, however he said the department is seeing the results in efficiency.
“Yes, in effect it has reduced our use,” Burgess said. “But it’s made it work quicker and at lower temperatures.
Burgess said his department began experimenting with the beet juice in the Blue Springs area last winter in one of the departments’ larger trucks called the Salty Dog. Burgess said the experimentation will be spread out more around the district this year.
Burgess said locally the department has purchased 14,000 gallons of the juice and plans on using all of it.
Last year the juice cost the department about $1.66 a gallon and more than $25,000 gallons was purchased by MoDOT statewide last year. This year the juice costs about $1.75 a gallon.
MoDOT is also using some hi-tech equipment to determine where and how much treatment is given to a roadway.
Snow removal trucks are equipped with sensitive thermometers that tell drivers exactly what the surface temperature of the pavement is.
MoDOT said in a press release that the department has taken measures to increase salt capacity. The release said that MoDOT increased storage capacity by 2,000 tons and that supplies have also been increased.
Richmond city officials are also looking at creative ways to clear the ice and solve a pending dilemma.
City Administrator Rick Childers said the city has received verbal and is waiting on written approval from the Department of Natural Resources to begin testing lime sludge as an ice remover.
The city has been told by DNR to have an abundant supply of lime sludge removed which could cost more than $200,000.
The city will first experiment on the roadway leading to the city water plant. Wastewater Superintendent C.E. Goodall said the city will mix the lime sludge with salt brine at first.
“We really don’t want to use a 100 percent mixture of lime sludge until we know what it’s going to do for sure,” Goodall said.
Childers said the city also has about 140 acres of farmland to apply the sludge to next year.
Childers also said that residents do not need to worry about salt supplies. In October the city’s past salt supplier notified the city they would not fill orders this year. Childers said the city has found a supplier out of Kansas City, Kan.
Photo: MoDOT worker Travis Coates takes a break from clearing the roads to clear the windshield of his snow plow at BP Gas Station Tuesday morning.
Temperatures yesterday struggled to get out of the single digits. The cold air mass continues to hang around today with minimal clearing.
Tomorrow, temperatures rise into the 30s but will be met with another round of winter storms and freezing rain.
MoDOT urges motorists to travel slowly on highways despite the roads appearing to be clear because black ice is present. (Photos by Dennis Sharkey/The Daily News)