From the ABC 7 Weather team

Road Salt: Too Much or Safe?

February 1, 2013 - 04:31 PM
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Too much salt on area roads this winter. . .or better to be safe?

The timing of  when to apply road salt to area roads, and how much to apply is always a tricky decision.  This morning was another example, of many this winter, of only a little snow really  caused only  a few problems in a metropolitan area of 3-4 million drivers.  But the timing was terrible.  Even for a "dusting" to 1" 


The light fluffy snow started around 5AM and was over around DC by 8AM.  In D.C. another 0.2" of snow and the total for the winter is now "only" 1.2".  Road crews had pretreated most major area roads and the dusting to 1" didn't cause major widespread problems.  The the question is are we over salting, or pretreating roads and using too much salt before ANY snow?  We had this recent poll. 


Many folks think we are using too much salt.  So far just in D.C. about 10,000 tons of salt have been applied to roads.  That works out to about 8,000 tons of salt per inch of snow.  This is what K street looked like after a dusting last week.  


White, salt covered streets probably insure maximum safety, but all the rain early this week washed that salt into area streams and rivers and eventually into the Cheseapeak Bay.  What do you think?  Should area transportation officials try and minimize the use of salt, especially if the forecast is only a "50% chance of light snow" or there may only be a dusting?  All of us just drive slower and carefully and don't try to go 60 mph on slippery roads?  What's the balance between safety, local government responsibility and ending even an average winter with almost 1 million tons of road salt from the entire region, being added to area waterways and the Bay.  Difficult decisions-what do you think?


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