Road crews use mix of chemicals to clear roads ahead of next round of wintry mix

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ST. LOUIS – MoDOT and IDOT crews have been working overtime. The unique combination of bitter cold temperatures and a wintry mix of precipitation has made the job tough. Both organizations had to add a special ingredient to their mix.

“Straight salts works down into the mid-20s. We’ve added beet juice to a lot of our loads to reduce the freezing temperature of things. In certain locations we have to add calcium chloride,” said Bob Becker, MoDOT maintenance engineer for the St. Louis District.

Joseph Monroe, IDOT’s District 8 operations engineer, said road crews saw their biggest success after adding calcium chloride to their mix.

Calcium chloride is a much more aggressive freezing point depressant, allowing snow and ice to melt at colder temperatures. But it isn’t a silver bullet. It is so aggressive that it can dilute itself and then the meltwater just refreezes.

“If you go too aggressive on a storm and you put calcium chloride down at the wrong time, you can actually make a skating rink,” Monroe said. “And I don’t think the Blues are going to bring their Stanley Cup over when you do that.”

Both MoDOT and IDOT say they are using the break between storms to get crews some rest and prepare for the next wintry wave.

“We’ll be fully staffed again tonight overnight, making sure we’re keeping an eye on things. Anything that comes down, getting a treatment on it,” Becker said.

“With the cold temperatures and the amount of moisture we already have in and adjacent to the pavement, we’re going to have to be well out in front of the next wave,” Monroe said.

IDOT says two of its trucks were struck Monday night during their storm efforts.

“We’re doing everything we can to put the men and women behind those plows in a position to be successful and no one wants cleaner pavement then the folks behind the plows,” Monroe said. “So, if you just get behind them and give them room to work, everybody wins.”

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