Why Do They Stop Salting Michigan Roads When It Gets Cold?
Have you ever seen a plow that is pushing snow but not spreading salt? Why is that?
Michigan Department of Transportation has a big job every Winter: clearing the roadways of snow and trying to keep Michigan drivers safe. Road salt is used to make slippery roads and intersections safer but loses its effectiveness in lower temperatures.
So why not use sand, instead? Many people asked this on the MDoT Facebook page. Here's what the department said:
Sand is certainly used in areas where its practical, mostly rural areas. It is not used in cities or other areas with drainage systems that includes pumps because of the damage sand can cause.
Sand is certainly easier on Michigan roads and less corrosive to the cars we own but is not always practical. Other methods are used in different areas of the state:
MDOT and contractor crews do use calcium chloride, brine, and sometimes even beet juice (not sure if that's been used lately, though) when salt is ineffective. Always a balance of making the most of the maintenance budget and keeping roads as clear as possible.
As easy as it sounds to just use sand instead of salt, that is not realistic as the cost to rebuild the entire infrastructure of drainage systems makes it cost prohibitive. In Michigan, we are stuck with the knowledge that the crews are out doing their best with what they have to work with.