Guest opinion: CDOT’s reasons for de-icer use
February 5, 2004
I wanted to respond to the issues you raise in your editorial, “CDOT Questions,” dated Jan. 27.
With respect to the signal issue, we are aware of the inefficiencies with our camera-detection signals along the SH 82 corridor. This problem with the snow preventing the cameras to “see” traffic seems to be unique to SH 82, possibly due to the extreme weather conditions.
Our traffic crews will identify malfunctioning signals along the corridor and will replace the cameras with conventional inlaid loops this summer until such time when the manufacturer can assure us that the cameras can handle the weather conditions.
Regarding our use of liquid de-icers, we do use these products because they are the safest, most efficient and cost-effective products available. Are they perfect? No, but their benefits outweigh those of other snow removal methods.
Liquid de-icers, like all salt products, can cause damage to certain metals ” although these products are no more corrosive than straight salt. Those driving in winter weather conditions should always wash their vehicles afterward to remove liquid de-icer residue, just as they should with salt and sand/salt mixtures. Unlike sand and sand/salt mixtures, however, liquid de-icers will not damage a vehicle’s paint or windshield.
Liquid de-icers are much better for the environment than other alternatives, including sand and salt. Not only have we drastically reduced air pollution associated with sand use, but we’ve reduced the amount of sand runoff that endangers roadside plant life and builds up as silt in our streams.
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The small amounts that wash off the road following a storm cause less environmental damage ” if any ” than salt to roadside vegetation. We are funding an independent study on all potential impacts to roadside vegetation, focusing on liquid de-icers, drought, automobile pollution, insects, disease, etc. We will publicize the results when the study is complete.
There is no evidence that liquid de-icers are harmful to lungs, though the air pollutant caused by ground-up sand (PM 10) is harmful ” and our use of liquid de-icers has brought down those PM 10 levels.
Our snow removal methods are certainly not employed out of a matter of “convenience,” as you suggest. We have an obligation to the traveling public to keep the highways safe and open for travel ” I can assure you we hear from commuters on the SH 82 corridor when their mobility is inconvenienced.
Reducing accidents by more than 60 percent and keeping roadways open is important to the traveling public. In addition, we are required by the federal government to continue to reduce our PM 10 levels. Returning to traditional snow removal tactics would not satisfy either audience.
Your commuters are not “suckers,” but motorists who have expectations regarding the safety and mobility of their highways. Our maintenance crews serve these customers by working 12-hour shifts around the clock during snowstorms.
They work un-Godly hours and regularly put their own safety at risk. Their often-thankless jobs are anything but “convenient,” and I think they deserve more credit for the work that they do ” they are commuters themselves, residents of your communities, with families and friends who drive the same highways they are maintaining.
That said, for the sake of safety and mobility, we’ll continue with our current snow removal program.
Tom Norton is executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation.