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Chapter 8 (Revised August 2013)
Winter Operations and Salt, Sand, and Chemical Management
8.2. Reducing Sand Usage and Managing Traction Materials

Over the last two decades, maintenance agencies in North America have gradually made the transition from the use of abrasives to the use of more deicers (Staples et al., 2004). This transition has been supported by a variety of studies demonstrating the detrimental environmental impacts of abrasives generally outweigh those of chemical products, and the use of abrasives requires more material and generally provides a lower level of service (CTC & Associates, 2008; Gertler et al., 2006; EPA, 2005; Walker, 2005; Nixon, 2001). Despite the abundant amount of research supporting the use of chlorides and other products instead of abrasives, sand may still be a preferred choice for some agencies. Locations where dry sand and other abrasives are appropriate include low speed roads (less than about 30 to 45 mph), hills, curves, and intersections. Dry sand applied on high-speed roads is short-lasting and ultimately not cost-effective (CTC & Associates, 2008). Sand usage can be reduced by limiting the frequency of re-application; by reducing bounce and scatter and taking steps to ensure the sand stays on the ice/snow-covered road longer. Several techniques that have been tried and used successfully to reduce sand usage include (Vaa 2004; Staples et al., 2004; Lysbakkan and Stotterud, 2006; MTO, 2008; CTC & Associates, 2008):

  • Pre-wetting sand with liquid deicers, such as salt brine.
  • Pre-wetting sand with hot water (about 194°F or 90°C) at a 30 percent by weight mix.
  • Heating sand to about 356°F or 180°C (this is hotter than typical hot mix asphalt mixing temperatures).
  • Switching to salt or other products.
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Continue to Section 8.3 »
Table of Contents
Chapter 8
Winter Operations and Salt, Sand, and Chemical Management
8.0 Introduction
8.1 Selecting Snow and Ice Control Materials to Mitigate Environmental Impacts
8.2 Reducing Sand Usage and Managing Traction Materials
8.3 Strategic Planning for Reduced Salt Usage
8.4 Stewardship Practices for Reducing Salt, Sand and Chemical Usage
8.5 Precision Application to Manage and Reduce Chemical Applications
8.6 Monitoring and Recordkeeping
8.7 Winter Operations Facilities Management
8.8 Training for Salt Management and Winter Maintenance Operations
  Appendix A - Acronyms
Lists: Examples | Tables | Figures
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