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New study finds liquid brine clears Wisconsin highways faster

In addition to clearing the highways faster, the liquid brine also provided better friction on...
In addition to clearing the highways faster, the liquid brine also provided better friction on roadways and reduced overall salt usage.(Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg)
Published: May. 1, 2022 at 4:24 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A recent report released by University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Traffic Operations and Safety Lab found use of liquid brine in winter highway maintenance cleared Wisconsin highways faster.

In addition to clearing the highways faster, the liquid brine also provided better friction on roadways and reduced overall salt usage.

Researchers in the UW Lab looked at data from 143 storms occurring in 10 counties across Wisconsin. They compared brine-cleared routes to those nearby cleared with traditional granular rock-salt method.

“With salt costs continuing to rise, it’s imperative we work together to optimize supplies and deliver the most safe and effective service possible for the taxpayer,” WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson said. “Liquid brine is a great example of how we strive to implement sustainable and earth-friendly alternatives during winter highway maintenance. We applaud county highway departments across the state for using liquid brine to maintain and clear Wisconsin roadways faster.”

The data showed that brine-treated roads were:

  • Clear more than two hours faster on average
  • More likely to show a higher friction rating
  • More efficient with material through reducing salt use by 23% on average

“The data tells a very positive story for winter highway safety in Wisconsin,” Andrea Bill, associate director of the TOPS Lab, which is housed in the UW-Madison College of Engineering, said. “Liquid brine is an effective tool, and along with training, education and technology, our storm fighters are making effective reductions in the amount of chloride on our roads and improving the performance of winter roads.”

Liquid brine is a simple mixture of salt and water used to clear winter roads.

By creating a treatment option using less salt, brine can help stretch budgets. There are also benefits to the environment, as the process of clearing the highway uses less salt and prevents the bounce off effect that can lead granular salt into bodies of water.

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