HANOVER – State Highway Administration officials announced Thursday that they have added new materials and equipment to fight the winter storms that may accompany El Nino — the warming of ocean waters in the equatorial Pacific — in the coming season.
In addition to salt, motorists will see two new materials on Maryland highways, ICE BAN MAGic and salt brine.
“We’re always open to new technology,” said Parker Williams, SHA administrator. “We are driven by service as well as cost efficiency.”
ICE BAN MAGic, an environmentally friendly anti-icing and de-icing product, is a mixture of ICE BAN, an agricultural byproduct with the look and consistency of molasses, and magnesium chloride. Its Midwest manufacturer claims it is less corrosive than water, and when used in winter storms can decrease salt usage up to 50 percent.
“The beauty of this product is that it’s good to minus 36 degrees Fahrenheit,” Williams said, where the more conventional rock salt is only good to about 17 degrees Fahrenheit.
Motorists will recognize ICE BAN MAGic because when applied to rock salt, it turns bluish-green.
Rodney Wynn, chairman of the SHA’s New Products Committee, said the color change results from “some type of chemical reaction between ICE BAN — magnesium chloride — and rock salt – – sodium chloride.”
Tests in New York show that concentrations of ICE BAN MAGic in road run-off have no detectable effect on fish, animals or water quality, and do not stimulate aquatic plant growth, the manufacturer says.
ICE BAN MAGic will be tested in Washington County and in Montgomery County along I-270 near the Frederick County line.
Salt brine, the second new material, is a liquid salt solution applied eight or 10 hours prior to and during winter storms. This solution, effective to approximately minus six degrees Farhenheit, will be used as a pre-wetting agent on bridge decks on the Eastern Shore, experts said.
Williams said a pilot program to “verify the performance of the product.” Without offering a specific figure, he added, “we expect to save money in terms of manpower and amount of salt.”
The SHA typically uses rock salt, which is mined, and solar salt, which is evaporated ocean water. When temperatures drop below 17 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the administration uses a small quantity of calcium chloride mixed with salt.
On the equipment front, the SHA has incorporated seven Zero- Velocity Spreaders and 10 wing plows in its winter storm preparation effort.
The spreaders will keep the distribution of materials such as salt to roadways instead of shoulders and vegetation — using less salt with less harm to the environment.
The system will also decrease the “whipping effect,” which has typically blinded motorists and caused paint damage to cars. Instead, the spray “will go under the car,” Williams said.
All seven spreaders were purchased with the help of federal grants. The trucks will operate in Washington, Carroll, Baltimore, Prince George’s, Charles, Talbot and Somerset counties.
Wing plows will be used throughout Maryland. This extra plow blade attaches to the right side of trucks and will enable crews to make two, instead of three, passes when clearing roads.
Williams cautioned “impatient” drivers “to go slow when driving around equipment.” He added that the SHA is looking into putting lights and markers on these wing plows to make them more visible.
Finally, an underbelly plow, which is mounted between two axles underneath the frame of the truck, will be used in Harford County. The weight of the truck causes the plow to bear down on surfaces, better enabling the blades to scrape ice and snow from roadways.
Officials urged motorists to call the winter storm hotline at 1-800-327-3125 for updates on general highway conditions throughout the state during severe weather. Information also will be available on the SHA Web site (www.chart.state.md.us), which should be completed by January. -30-