Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sand and Salt: A Model for Change

A nature of the human condition is to resist change. However, in most cases, change turns out to be a good thing, particularly in the areas of science and technology.
In snow and ice control, one of the most difficult changes for an agency is to change from a policy of abrasives treatment (sand) priority to a policy of chemical treatment (salts and other chemicals) priority.

Abrasives priority is a policy of using a mixture of abrasives and ice control chemicals, or straight abrasives, to treat snow and ice situations. A chemical priority policy uses straight ice control chemicals, without abrasives, to produce the desired result. The strategy of anti-icing (trying to prevent ice/pavement bond) is inherent in most chemical priority programs.
To transition from an abrasive to a chemical priority policy, examine these steps that have been used successfully by others.
  • Decide that chemical priority is something to try, and WHY
  • Research relevant literature and web-based information
  • Get help from knowledgeable peers: the Cornell Local Roads Program; NYSDOT; FHWA; and consultants
  • Decide which roads or areas are good candidates for such a policy
  • Conduct trials that yield data on costs, operational characteristics, and performance
  • If successful, get legislative buy-in and educate your agency by using local “champions” who have seen the experimental results first hand
  • Educate the public (people who use your highway system)

Train, evaluate, and refine

Warren County in New York State and the State of Maine have successfully managed the transition from an abrasives to a chemical priority policy.

Environmental protection and improved level of service

Warren County is situated in the Adirondack Mountains. Most of the western watershed of Lake George is in this county. In the early 1990s the loadings of silt and abrasives accumulating in Lake George were generating a high level of environmental concern. The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the Warren County Department of Public Works (DPW) installed many containment features to trap silt and abrasives before they reached Lake George. They also instituted aggressive sweeping programs to pick up abrasives before they entered the drainage system.
In the late 1990s, to further reduce abrasives loadings, the Warren County DPW decided to move from its long-standing abrasives priority policy to a chemical priority policy, and improve their level of snow and ice service. Coincidentally, researchers from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) contacted Warren County to participate in a field study to compare the cost and performance of a chemical priority policy with those of an abrasives priority policy - A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN.
Warren County agreed to collect the necessary data. The researchers provided substantial training, experimental design, data collection forms, and data analysis. The results of the three-winter study were compelling. The data showed that an equal or higher level of service could be provided, at less cost, by using a chemical priority approach when compared with an abrasives priority approach. THE DATA SHOWED LESS SALT WOULD BE USED.