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Road crews in El Paso County busy with advance salt application for storm

The Colorado Department of Transportation and El Paso County hope spraying salt brine on roads before the forecasted winter storm will make their response easier and your driving safer.

CDOT and county crews were busy Wednesday spraying brine on key roads and highways.

Crew supervisors said pretreating roads will make plowing easier and increase the likelihood that less of the traditional magnesium chloride — a more effective but more expensive and harsher chemical — will be needed.

“The salt brine forms a layer between traffic and the road surface,” said Kevin Mastin, a county public works supervisor. “When you apply it on a dry road surface before a storm and allow it to dry, it’s very effective. It works best at temperatures above 28 degrees.”

CDOT still relies on magnesium chloride as a major tool for ice and snow removal, but El Paso County hopes it won’t be needed during this storm except for particularly icy spots.

Although CDOT has used salt brine for several years, this will be the first season that the county is using it.

Colorado Springs does not use salt brine and has no plans to do so.

“We don’t have adequate storage capacity for it,” said Jack Ladley, a city public works manager. “Once we increase our capacity, we may consider it.”

KRDO NewsChannel 13 followed a county tanker as it sprayed salt brine on Vollmer Road in Black Forest.

Drivers had mixed feelings about it.

“Sounds like a good idea to me, if it can help,” said Kathy Welch. “This is a particularly icy stretch because of the shade of the trees, so it’s a good road to give it a true test.”

“I’m concerned about the rust inhibitor added to the salt brine,” said Jennifer Luedtke. “I know they say there’s a low amount of rust inhibitor, but a low amount when your trees are drinking it, I’m worried that it’s going to kill the trees.”

CDOT and the county insist the liquid is safe to use.

Local crew supervisors also discussed why recent winter storms have been particularly severe along Woodmen Road from east of Interstate 25 to U.S. 24 in Falcon.

“Part of the reason is higher elevation on the north side of town, and part is the wind tends to be stronger,” Ladley said. “We’ve learned from that and now have assigned an additional four plows to cover that area.”

Mastin said many fences along Woodmen contribute to snow higher accumulation.

“It’s something we just have to deal with,” he said.

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