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TxDOT prepares for winter weather with a toolbox of brine, salt and sand

Johannes

Feb. 05, 2020

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Texas Department of Transportation is preparing for possible winter weather with several substances designed to keep roadways as safe as possible, depending on the situation.
“We have many different tools in the toolbox,” TxDOT spokesperson Val Lopez said.
Here’s a list of substances the department uses, how they work and what it means if you see one more than the other.
BRINE
Brine is the first step in prepping roads for snow and ice. It’s relatively new, gaining popularity in the last five years, Lopez said.
TxDOT trucks began spraying a layer of brine on area roadways on Tuesday. It prevents ice from forming when it mixes with falling rain, sleet or snow.
“The idea is that it falls onto the brine, it dilutes the salt and now we have a salt and water combination and that lowers the freezing point of that water,” Lopez said.  “That salt acts as an antifreeze.”
SALT AND DE-ICERS
If and when winter weather starts rolling in, TxDOT shifts gears to salt and de-icers.
“We use that when we see accumulation on the bridge,” Lopez said.
While some states prefer sodium chloride, like the salt in your kitchen, TxDOT’s facility in south Fort Worth has a pile of magnesium chloride at the ready. It’s more effective at melting ice at lower temperatures, according to TxDOT. This is used when ice is starting to form.
“We want to create a slush that creates ice from bonding on the roadway,” Lopez said.
SAND
If conditions continue to worsen, crews can also dump sand on the roads.
“It doesn’t necessarily de-ice anything but it does provide traction,” Lopez said.
If you’re new to the Lone Star state, say, from a place that sees more snow, it’s important not to underestimate the Texas winter, Lopez said.
“We don’t get as much snow as we do ice,” Lopez said. “Ice is much different than snow. It’s much heavier. It’s dense. It’ll actually fuse onto the roadway.  Driving on ice is a different situation altogether.”
Whether it’s brine, salt or sand, TxDOT says it’s taking winter weather seriously, and so should you.
“Motorists need to do their part as well,” Lopez said.
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