VIDEO - Using Brine to De-Ice Highways

VideoSpreading solid salt on the highway to melt ice takes some time as it has to dissolve in water in order to do the job. Applying salt in the form of a brine solution speeds up the process. This video from the Mainroad Group, one of B.C.'s road maintenance contractors explains about the use of brine instead of rock salt.

Spraying brine on the highway before a weather event is preventative maintenance. The salt will already be there to prevent snow and ice from forming or sticking to the pavement surface so it is easier for the plows to remove.

There is more information on the use of brine at the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's (TranBC) website.

While we are on the topic, here's some important information about sharing the road with snow removal equipment also.


Reality check

It's informative and interesting to see the video, and technical information as to how this works. That's pretty salty stuff!

And they make the process look so tidy, with those narrow lines of brine being laid on the road surface directly behind the truck.

Well, on Wednesday I drove Hwy 19 up from Nanaimo to Courtenay. The temperature was 0 degrees and at that time, a sunny weekend was anticipated (so much for that). But around 4:15pm, looking ahead it was clear that in the left lane there was some sort of official vehicle with bright yellow flashing lights. I would estimate its speed at around 80 km/h with most traffic traveling at 110 km/h+. The brining truck was emitting massive moisture, spraying not just the lane it was in, but using other high power jets of brine to also spray across the adjacent lane to it's right.

Thankfully, traffic was relatively light (but it's remarkable how it becomes a dense mass with a mobile menace like this suddenly encountered). But there was no escaping this mess. I was already running the windshield washers and wipers before I met this airborne guck. Heck, I had just put my van through the deluxe carwash the day before; if there had been any possible way of escaping this horrible mess, I would have found it!

I think the highway contractor needs to seriously re-think how they're going about this. Or be required to do so. Ideally, that brining truck would only be treating one lane of the highway at a time, or if not then it should be in the right (slow) lane spraying to the left. And this would be done late at night with minimal traffic. Plus which, there should have been a warning vehicle running along the shoulder 500 ~ 1000 meters beforehand, cautioning drivers to slow way down and look out for the pending hazard.

Highways contractors receive large amounts of our government funds, and they should be the leaders in road safety. Not part of the problem.

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