Working to Keep Highways Safe During Winter

Working to Keep Highways Safe During Winter

CHEYENNE – In the course of winter maintenance, WYDOT treats roads with liquid de-icers and anti-icers to keep ice from bonding to our roadways, or to remove the ice if it has already formed.

These mixtures include salt/sand, liquid salt brine, magnesium chloride and beet juice. When snowfall can be predicted, some of these chemicals are occasionally applied to roads before storms to help keep snowpack from accumulating, and to assist with the removal of snow after the storm.

“We try to prevent the snowpack from forming, but we can’t always do that. Chemicals do help with the removal of the snowpack after the storm,” Hallsten said.

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Other chemicals are used continuously to help battle snowpack and icy conditions.

“We do what is called ‘pre-wetting.’ This is where we use a salt/sand mixture that has been pre-wet with a chemical, usually salt brine (salt mixed with water). This helps the sand stick to the road,” Hallsten said.

Salt, or sodium chloride, is the most common and cheapest tool for fighting ice. Salt has an important role in ice removal. Using salt on roads lowers the temperature at which ice will melt, and helps to prevent the formation of ice at lower temperatures. But, when temperatures drop below 15 degrees Fahrenheit salt becomes ineffective.

The compound GeoBrine is another WYDOT tool for battling ice on our highways. Also known as beet juice due to its association with sugar beets, the sticky, red solution is composed of 60 percent salt brine and 40 percent beet juice, which gives it the red color. GeoBrine is often used as a preventative action when roadways are pre-wetted prior to storms.

Salt brine freezes at 6 degrees below zero when mixed properly, while GeoBrine freezes at 26 below zero.

Beet juice works by basically stopping the ice and snow from bonding to the pavement during the storm, which allows WYDOT maintenance workers to plow off excess moisture easier and quicker, which clears roads faster. Pre-wetting roads helps WYDOT to provide safer conditions for drivers during the storm as well. This helps maintenance crews from spending excessive amounts of time chipping ice off highways throughout Northwest Wyoming.

Supplementing beet juice mixtures in WYDOT’s battle against icy road conditions allows ice and snow to melt at lower temperatures, and also provides a preventative coating on the highways which lasts longer, giving crews a chance to get more snow and ice off the roads in a timely manner.

“We try to prevent the snowpack from forming, but we can’t always do that,” Hallsten said.

While research verifies fewer accidents occur on treated highways, these de-icers and anti-icers can be sprayed up on vehicles from tires and wind.

“After storms, we’d suggest washing your vehicle to minimize the effects of these chemicals,” Hallsten said.

Information links may help in planning your winter outings

— National Weather Service (Riverton) –

— WYDOT road conditions –

— WYDOT road conditions – 1-888-WYO-ROAD

— 511 Notify – Dial 511 on your cell phone to obtain road information. This system can also be enabled to deliver road alerts as text messages to your phone or e-mails to your computer or phone on routes that the user identifies. Go to www/ and choose the 511 notify icon to set-up your account.

In case of emergency, the following number may be contacted for assistance:
— Wyoming Highway Patrol (24 hours per day) – (800) 442-9090