Sand/Salt vs. just salt on roads in winter....

Joined
Sep 8, 2005
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Canada
When I was a young lad growing up in Ottawa, Canada in the early 1980's, I clearly remember that in the winter the city would spread a mixture of sand and salt on the roads...the salt was to melt the ice, and the sand was for traction. In more recent years in Ottawa, the city just spreads pure salt on the roads in bad weather to melt the ice and snow. When I 'looked into' it a bit, I'm pretty sure I found that the city did this because of the dirty mess a sand/salt mixture makes; salt dissolves away much easier. I'm not sure if that is correct, but I thought I read\heard that somewhere. A couple of months ago, my wife and I moved to a place called North Bay, 4 hours north-west of Ottawa. Being more north, and at a higher altitude, it is much colder here in the winter. When it snows/ices up here, the city spreads sand on the roads, with little or no salt. I've been told that is because with how cold it is here, salt is ineffective and a waste, and you just need sand for traction. It is weird to see sandy muck on the roads again, and it does make a mess. Another clear difference I have seen is the pattern of metal damage it does. Cars and trucks rust here, obviously, but what you see a lot more of is 'sandblast' damage behind the wheels from the grit being thrown at the paint, as opposed to just rust bubbles on fenders and doors. So, what does your jurisdiction use for winter clearing, and has it changed that you have seen? I think its interesting that our winters in Ottawa DID use to be a lot colder than now, and they used sand and salt...now that it is warmer they use just salt. I wonder if they really did analyze how much warmer the winters were getting and changed because of that, or was it because of mess?
 
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Oct 23, 2005
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North America
I've also seen ash added to roads. Very dirty but effective and no damage to vehicles. When spring comes it gets washed away. A friend works for the DOH in WV; he says there is a lower temperature limit below which salt is ineffective and anyone in colder climes has seen the ice reform at night when it gets cold, despite the salt. Once when I lived in VA we got 18" of snow. A couple of big pickups made trails through the neighborhood, and everyone was getting around fine. Then the county came by, and spread their sand and salt without.plowing, and the packed snow turned into quicksand, and no one went anywhere. IMO save the salt and let the plows do their job removing snow, and if it's slick, add something for traction. Salt costs money, is ineffective when it gets really cold, and damages both vehicles and the environment.
 
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Joined
Jan 10, 2008
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Milwaukee, WI
Salt only works down to around 10~15 degrees (probably a bit lower with sun on black pavement, but still...) so I can see how sand is better in extreme cold, and cheaper anytime. On the other hand in areas with storm sewers the sand does pollute and can cause sediment in streams... etc... requiring street sweeping. Our village doesn't use sand and gets away with meeting whatever stormwater runoff standards with just one sweeping per year, which apparently is good enough to publicize. County is testing a beet juice byproduct that seems to be getting more popular all over, making salt effective at lower temperatures. Also cheese brine, though I'm not sure that's abundant outside Wisconsin. Anyway, I never knew about the stormwater runoff and maybe that's a recent reason to reduce sand use. Although, I can't imagine salt is really that great for rivers and streams either. Also, last winter was the coldest I ever recall, and numbers backed that up. This winter doesn't look too promising either.
 
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Nov 3, 2013
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UT
In town and on the interstate, I've only seen use of the liquid pre-treat that has come to be commonly used. But in the mountain canyons they still spread a salt/sand mixture.
 
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Jan 13, 2013
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Washington, DC
Originally Posted By: Kuato
I've also seen ash added to roads. Very dirty but effective and no damage to vehicles. When spring comes it gets washed away. A friend works for the DOH in WV; he says there is a lower temperature limit below which salt is ineffective and anyone in colder climes has seen the ice reform at night when it gets cold, despite the salt. Once when I lived in VA we got 18" of snow. A couple of big pickups made trails through the neighborhood, and everyone was getting around fine. Then the county came by, and spread their sand and salt without.plowing, and the packed snow turned into quicksand, and no one went anywhere. IMO save the salt and let the plows do their job removing snow, and if it's slick, add something for traction. Salt costs money, is ineffective when it gets really cold, and damages both vehicles and the environment.
I go to WV a lot for hunting and general recreation. I think their method of road treatment is about tops. Scrape the road and put cinders down for traction on hills. No environmental harm due to massive salt runoff, no refreeze at night. The cinders are the way to go.
 

JHZR2

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Dec 14, 2002
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New Jersey
In town I just see salt. On the bigger roads, I see a tannish color chunky product, which I assume is a mix, since the salt I see in the storehouses is pretty white. We're pretty temperate and fairly flat too. In colder places, like where we ski in Vermont, it seems to be all sand, and at our mountain home, I often see cinders, since they're good for traction on the hills, and likely free from the power plants.
 
Joined
Sep 24, 2012
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VA
Around here in VA it seems to depend on the road and/or who is treating it. Many of my local roads will use sand/cinders only, while the interstate and other major roads will use salt only. Not sure I have a preference. They both seem to work fine in their application. Many of the shopping center parking lots around me still have pools of sand left over from last year.
 
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Sep 18, 2014
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NJ
Here in North Jersey we had a lot of more snow than usual last year. It seemed to me they used more salt on the roads. The salt would hang in the air and create a salt cloud. I wish they wouldn't use so much salt it ruins vehicles and roads. Then when I pass a salt truck I cringe as I here that salt rocks bounce off my truck hide
 
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Southeastern, PA
I wonder if part of the picture is how developed the area is. If the area has storm sewers on the roads the sand would end up there and make a mess that would have to be cleaned out at some point. Chuckinator, yeah, those salt spreaders are pretty effective at keeping me away from those trucks. I give them a wide berth.
 
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Joined
Aug 27, 2012
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new york
Up here usually sand only, but now tapping into the large reserve of finely crushed stone which is a by product of the iron mining in the 20s the stuff is about a big around as a pencil lead, we'll see how this goes
 
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western ny, usa
New York State Thruway uses, "In addition to the usual rock salt to aid in ice melt and to help give drivers traction, the state will also use an anti-icing mix of sugar beet juice and brine to pre-treat roadways." Most areas in Western New York use rock salt, so much that the blacktop roads become white roads in winter from the salt. Sand in areas with sewers causes a build up of sand in the sewer which reduces sewer capacity. It is abrasive to machinery at the Sewage Treatment Plant.
 
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Mar 13, 2013
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UK
Over here they use rock salt, which is mined in the UK. It is a natural mix of mostly salt with some sedimentary 'grit' or silt. It is often treated with an anti-caking substance to aid distribution and there have been trials where some local authorities use a mix of rock salt with molasses (no, really - try cleaning that off of your car).
 
Joined
Jan 3, 2004
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Illinois
Originally Posted By: CapitalTruck
I go to WV a lot for hunting and general recreation. I think their method of road treatment is about tops. Scrape the road and put cinders down for traction on hills. No environmental harm due to massive salt runoff, no refreeze at night. The cinders are the way to go.
Cinders, though, are the enemy to bicycle riders. Unlike sand, cinders are razor-sharp and will embed themselves themselves into the tire. I don't think they could penetrate a car tire but on a thin bicycle tire, eventually the cinders will get in and puncture the inner tube. And since they're not water soluble, cinders will remain along the side of the road for months until enough heavy rains eventually wash them into the ditch. When I lived in Peoria, IL, many was the time I'd come back from a bike ride with two flat tires - in June! It was always due to cinders.
 
Joined
Mar 16, 2004
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USA
Salt does not work well if it gets too cold. Also salt can only be acquired in certain areas easier and cheaply near shipping as it is typically imported. NH lives on tourism so we uses heavy salt on main roads that make roads black within day of storm.(reason I see little need for winter tires in my state). On back roads I notice they simply keep spreading sand on top of gravel roads(our get away home) to maintain traction. Salt is not used.
 
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Dec 22, 2002
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The Garden State
Originally Posted By: weasley
Over here they use rock salt, which is mined in the UK. It is a natural mix of mostly salt with some sedimentary 'grit' or silt. It is often treated with an anti-caking substance to aid distribution and there have been trials where some local authorities use a mix of rock salt with molasses (no, really - try cleaning that off of your car).
I use that on my hilly driveway. It sticks better than just rock salt, But it is messy. What bags are left goo out the molasses in the warm weather frown . Whimsey
 
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Dec 22, 2002
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The Garden State
They started using a salt brine to pre treat the county, state and interstate roads around me in north west NJ. Then they salt during the storm and after. You can hear the rust forming on your vehicle as you drive crzy . The salt brine seems to be more corrosive than just the rock salt. Whimsey
 
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UK
Apparently on roadsides around the UK, species of plants are flourishing that are normally only restricted to coastal areas.
 
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Aug 4, 2011
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Appleton, WI
My city is in love with salt in the winter. It's atrocious how much they put down in even the lightest snowfall. I hate the stuff, not just because of the corrosion but the fact that it takes powered and packed snow which has some traction and melts it into a slurry of water and snow that has zero traction. Then they don't come back and plow the slush off of the road! Stupidity reigns in the public works department. They love the stuff so much that on many major intersections the have a large metal box on the corner filled with the stuff that people are encouraged to use if the intersection needs more.
 
Joined
Aug 21, 2013
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Central Maryland
I've noticed that "cinders" seems to mean whatever the local road department or news reader wants it to mean. Sometimes it's actual ash, other times it's pumice, other times it's fine gravel and/or sand. In other words, "cinders" has come to mean anything that's abrasive and not salt.
 
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