The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 23, 2014

MSU researchers dig into road salt

Team looking at best times, ways to treat highways

Thursday’s blizzard was fortuitous for a Minnesota State University research team.

Steve Druschel, associate professor of civil engineering, and students Tony Adderley and Danielle Alinea were under the North Star Bridge collecting samples of murky road melt from the highway above.

“This is a perfect storm for our tests,” said Druschel, who is leading research on the best times and ways for Minnesota Department of Transportation drivers to lay down anti-icing liquid solutions and salt to get the most effective snow removal and highest safety for motorists.

Druschel and students did a 2010 project for MnDOT that looked at 25 combinations of salts, looking for which are most effective.

Druschel said finding the most cost-effective way to use chemicals is increasingly important. Rock salt, delivered in the summer off season, sells for about $80 a ton, but the price has risen to as much as $250 in some places recently because of shortages.

Alinea, a junior, said the real-life research has been a help. “I’m getting a good perspective of designing an experiment and how much work it takes.”

Adderley, a senior, had previous experience on a project Druschel led that looked at ways to reduce flooding on the Zumbro River.

“I really liked that study because we went to town hall meetings and presented studies to people. I learned a lot from that,” Adderley said.

He hopes to work in environmental water resources when he graduates.

Alinea hopes to work with water, too, albeit a different type. “I like wastewater,” she said of her desire to work in wastewater management.

Besides salt, highway crews also in recent years began using magnesium chloride, a greenish liquid that is sprayed on pavement prior to storms.

“The liquid is good and it helps. But it can cost up to twice as much and you’re not getting double the melting for the price,” Druschel said.

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