Eco-melting options for urban roads

Focus Area

Environmental Considerations in Planning








1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

This study presents thermal snow melting methods utilizing electric heating cable, geothermal, tunnel water heat, and solar that can be applicable for various locations on modern road networks. Compared with conventional deicing or anti-icing based chemical methods, these thermal methods are environmentally friendly and effective in clearing away snow and preventing ice formation in a timely manner without causing long and frequent traffic hold-ups. Construction and operation features of each thermal method are investigated with the full-scale snow melting systems realized worldwide and subjected to various wintery weather events. Based on the data collected from the fields, cost analyses will be conducted to characterize the affordability of each system. Finally, several target locations for eco-melting systems including toll lanes, open sections between tunnels, curved sections, and bridges are prioritized based on three influential factors: environment, safety, and affordability.

Urgency and Payoff

Conventional winter maintenance involves a fleet of plow trucks and dispensers that clear away snow from the road surfaces and spray deicing chemicals. These winter maintenance vehicles are needed on bridges, inclines, intersections, and expressways, but heavy traffic frequently obstructs the procession of maintenance and emergency vehicles. Consequently, the number and length of traffic hold-up hours are increasing. To avoid these traffic obstructions and delayed maintenance, deicing chemicals are applied in the early stages long before any snow event, causing an excessive consumption of those chemicals. As demonstrated in previous studies, popular chloride-based deicing chemicals such as calcium chloride (CaCl2), sodium chloride (NaCl),and magnesium chloride (MgCl2) induce accelerated erosion and corrosion in road infrastructure and damaging effects on nearby eco-system. The outcomes of this study will provide state engineers and policy makers with evaluation tools and guidelines so that well informed decisions are made for environmentally safe snow removal and deicing operations on roads.

Suggested By

Youngguk Seo GPTRC at Kennesaw State University 6789155496

[email protected]