Michigan bill would tap beet juice to clear roads

December 4, 2020

Keith Goble


As the onset of winter approaches, a bill in the Michigan House addresses concern about the aftermath of winter on the state’s roadways and the vehicles that use the roads via an organic additive.

The Michigan Department of Transportation now uses mostly brine or salt to treat roadways and bridges to prevent the accumulation of ice and snow on roads and to de-ice roads.

Sponsored by Sen. Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, the bill would allow use of an organic additive to help control ice and snow on roadways and bridges in the state. Specifically, the state would be permitted to test the combination of sugar beets and road salts into a mixture described as “beet juice.”

Other states that use beet juice to help treat roads and highways include Kansas, Minnesota and Missouri. Additionally, municipalities around the country also use the product to help clear roads.

List of benefits

Victory says beet juice could help to address damage to Michigan’s infrastructure via potholes and damage to vehicles due to corroded parts. He adds that salt runoff negatively effects the environment.

“Salt works well to handle ice on roads, but it harms Michigan’s freshwater ecosystems,” Victory said in previous remarks. “On top of that, salt corrodes our roads and vehicles. Providing an alternative to salt-only de-icing will help with both of these problems.”

Critics says it is possible that sugar beet juice could have negative effects on streams and rivers.

Advocates add that the bill would also reduce costs to treat roads. They note that organic additives result in less salt being used and that less applications are necessary due to improved adherence to pavement. As a result, less product is needed and workers do not need to be on the clock for as many hours.

Seeking answers

Testing of the beet-salt mixture would be done in three locations that include public roads, highways, and bridges. Effects on pollution in lakes, rivers, and groundwater would be included.

A final report would be submitted by MDOT to the House and Senate transportation committees by June 2025. A determination would then be made whether to pursue a statewide authorization of the mixture to treat roads.

The bill, SB379, is scheduled for consideration in the House Transportation Committee. The Senate already approved the bill. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Michigan is available.


Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.