New York State launches pilot programs to reduce the impact of road salt on two lakes

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The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has announced new innovative pilot programs to help rejuvenate two environmentally-sensitive lakes by reducing the application of road salt while still protecting the safety of the traveling public.

Road salt is one of the challenges affecting the Adirondack Park’s cherished aquatic ecosystems, and the two pilot programs for Mirror Lake and Lake George will make use of all the NYSDOT’s best management practices to reduce salt application rates while still satisfying goals of maintaining safety on the state’s highway system.

In collaboration with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the new salt management practices being implemented by NYSDOT are intended to help protect the environment, as well as encourage commercial and private landowners to implement similar reductions in their salt usage.

NYSDOT and DEC have already established a strategic working group to evaluate the effectiveness of the pilots, which could potentially have an impact on snow and ice management practices statewide.

The best management practices the NYSDOT will implement as part of these pilots include:

• Using brine for pre-storm anti-icing;

• The use of a plow truck with a segmented plow blade and other alternative blade technologies to mechanically remove as much snow and ice from the pavement as possible;

• Using treated salt, which is more effective at colder temperatures;

• Using automatic vehicle location (AVL) equipment that can track salt application rates and regularly calibrate the salt spreading equipment;

• Closely monitoring salt use during storms while performing post-storm evaluations to review application rates and the performance of those rates;

• State agencies will work with partners within the park to monitor surface and groundwater quality in the pilot areas;

• Evaluation of cutting back some trees in key locations to allow the sun to melt the snow and ice on portions of shaded roadways;

• Evaluation of abrasives and abrasive mixes;

• Leveraging other Maintenance Program Areas (drainage, pavement, environmental) to see how they can be used to facilitate snow and ice operations, and subsequently reduce the dependence on road salt.

The plans will also include other considerations to ensure the pilots are conducted in a safe manner, such as new signage for motorists on State Route 86 and 9N, within the pilot locations. The signage will be used to indicate that reduced salt application rates are being used on the roadway. These pilots will be performed throughout the course of the 2018-19 snow and ice season. At the close of the season, a review will be performed to determine the effectiveness of the pilots, including on safety, and to consider the feasibility of expanding the salt reduction practice.

“Safety is our highest priority, and salt has proven to be one of the most effective ways in maintaining a safe highway for the traveling public. At the same time, we understand that there is a delicate balance between protecting the Adirondacks and maintaining safe highways for motorists, given current materials and methods of technologies available,” explained NYSDOT’s acting commissioner, Paul A Karas.

“Lake George and Mirror Lake are known worldwide for their pristine beauty, and these new pilot programs will strive to keep our roadways safe while enhancing environmental sustainability.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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