Assessment of Environmental Impacts of Products/Chemicals Used in Maintenance of Highways

Focus Area

Construction and Maintenance Practices


Environmental Process, Natural Resources







Research Idea Scope

Problem Statement:
To maintain the highway infrastructure, right-of-way and their functions, many operations including snow and ice control, paving/patching, surface sealing, traffic marking and vegetation management may use chemical products that are used, but not permanently incorporated into the highway infrastructure. These products may contain petroleum components, toxic chemicals, volatile organic compounds or other materials that could, dependant upon how used, present varying impacts upon the environment.
Some of these products include chemicals that are on designated toxic chemical lists, spill reportability lists and/or otherwise designated of concern. A comprehensive review comparing the performance and environmental impact of different products and procedures to accomplish an activity would be beneficial to state transportation agencies. Examples of activities and products used include:
  • Snow and Ice Control involving different deicing products including sodium chloride (salt), magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), potassium acetate
  • (KAc), and agricultural products such as corn or beet derived Ice-Ban. An NCHRP project, 2002-F-03, to compare the environmental impacts and performance of de-icing products was submitted and was listed as continently approved. (If it does not proceed, inclusion in this study would be beneficial.)
  • Cleaning of paving equipment with petroleum or alternative products with consideration  of procedures to manage residue.
  • Concrete sealing with different organic sealers
  • Vegetation management with herbicides under guide rail and around signs

Proposed Research:
Review, investigate, evaluate and compare the environmental impacts and recommend preferred products and procedures for accomplishing activities using chemical products.

TERI Administrator Note (May 2007): Related Research
NCHRP Report 577, Guidelines for the Selection of Snow and Ice Control Materials to Mitigate Environmental Impacts (May 2007)

Abstract: TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 577: Guidelines for the Selection of Snow and Ice Control Materials to Mitigate Environmental Impacts (published May 2007) explores guidelines for the selection of snow and ice control materials through an evaluation of their cost, performance, and impacts on the environment and infrastructure.  The report examines a decision tool for the selection of snow and ice control materials to suit the specific needs of any given highway agency, a purchase specification that can be used by an agency once agency staff have selected materials for use, and a quality assurance monitoring program that includes procedures and standard test methods to characterize snow and ice control products before their purchase or use.

Suggested By

2002 Research Needs Conference Idea Laura Greninger New York State Department of Transportation Environmental Analysis Bureau

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