Lack of de-icer not cause of accidents |

Lack of de-icer not cause of accidents

Sarah S. Chung

A lack of the road de-icer magnesium chloride was not to blamefor the rash of fender benders scattered throughout Aspen duringWednesday evening’s storm, say police and road crews.”Every storm is unique and road conditions depend on how fastthe storm comes in, how fast it accumulates, and the temperature,”said Dan Blankenship, general manager of the Roaring Fork TransitAgency. “In [Wednesday’s] white-out conditions, where so much accumulatesin a short period, it doesn’t give road crews much reaction timewith mag chloride or without.” Still, police scanner transmissions that night indicated RFTAbus drivers were pleading for more sand in particularly slipperyareas.Police, road crew supervisors, and RFTA employees generally agreethat using magnesium chloride probably would not have preventedthe 13 accidents in Aspen and Snowmass Village. “It was certainly a busy night,” said Snowmass Village PoliceChief Art Smythe. The storm, complicated by high winds that torethrough most of the state, prompted Snowmass officers to requirechains on all vehicles from 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to 3 a.m. Thursdaymorning. “… in [Wednesday’s] storm I don’t think mag chloride would havemade any difference,” Smythe said. “It was white-out conditionswith low visibility and snowy, slippery roads, and I certainlydon’t get the impression that mag chloride would have changedthat.”In Aspen, there were seven accidents between Wednesday eveningand Thursday morning. And while that number is higher than average,it doesn’t come close to the 17 wrecks that occurred after thestorm a week earlier, according to the Aspen Police Department.But while the de-icer may not have altered the impact of Wednesday’sstorm, Aspen road and bridge director Jack Reid isn’t exactlythrilled with the road conditions since the City Council bannedthe spraying of magnesium chloride on town streets. “I think roads become more snow packed and take longer to getbare,” Reid said.Until tests determine that the substance is safe, Aspen road crewsare using sand that is treated with the de-icer. But the increasedsand application leaves the road department “scrambling” to stayunder dust pollution limits, noted Reid.”I’m hopeful that tests will show that it’s safe to use mag chloride,”he said. “In general when we use just sand, people should expectroads to be a little slicker and people should drive more carefully.”

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