How MODOT Treats Icy Streets


SPRINGFIELD — 12-hour shifts, several tons of salt, and a few gallons of… juice? 

During winter weather events, MODOT drivers are out running from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Then relief comes in to work 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The attack plan focuses on the main roads first to keep your commute as smooth as possible. 

MODOT’s Southwest district covers 21 counties. and District Maintence Engineer Darin Hamelink says Tuesday night’s snow required them to send out about half of their 284 trucks to treat the streets with road salt.

“Typically we put 100-200 pounds per lane mile, it can vary depending on the type of precipitation we’re getting but that’s the general rule of thumb. The system inside the truck is automated. So based on the speed of the truck it puts down the right amount, takes the guess work out of it for the driver,” says Hamelink says.  

Throughout their 21 counties they have 28 salt domes — two of them in Springfield. 

“Rock salt is our basic material we put down. It cost $60 a ton. We order our salt way back in June-July,” says Hamelink.  

Last year they ordered 17,000 tons to refill their supply, which costs just over $1 million dollars.

The salt that crews use comes from salt mines in Kansas, and once they import it, they may use a number of different ingredients to get it ready to go on streets.

“Rock salt by itself is really only good down to about 20 degrees and then it really starts to be not as effective,” says Hamelink. 

They can treat it with a product called ice band, at really low temperatures they’ll use sodium chloride, but one product in particular has proven to be really effective: beet juice. 

They usually put 5-10 gallons per ton in with their road salt. 

“It’s a byproduct from the beet industry. It’s just a great product. It helps the salt work at lower temperatures,” says Hamelink. 

He says the beet juice also allows the salt to stick to the roads better. 

So, when you wake up in the morning to catch OzarkFirst’s school closings, remember that MODOT has a lot to do with the decisions. 

“We’re getting more and more involved with school districts too, coordinating with them. They have an early 4 a.m. call that we call in to. They ask us ‘What are you thinking? Are you gonna treat? How many are you going to have out?'” 

Hamelink says they have about 70% of their salt left for the winter.

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