Michigan Legislature approves testing organic additive to clear roads

December 30, 2020

Keith Goble

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A bill has cleared the Michigan statehouse to address concern about the aftermath of winter on 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.

The Senate voted 36-1 to give final approval to a bill to tap an organic additive to help control ice and snow on roadways and bridges in the state. Specifically, MDOT would be permitted to test the combination of sugar beets and road salts into a mixture described as beet juice.

One day earlier, House lawmakers voted 98-3 in favor of the bill.

Pursuing a better option

Sen. Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, touts the possibility that 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.

“Although salt works well to reduce ice on winter roads, it also corrodes roads and vehicles, blows away in extreme winter and harms Michigan’s farms and freshwater ecosystems,” Victory said in prior remarks. “Sugar beets may offer an alternative to salt-only de-icing that could help improve winter road conditions and better protect our environment and vehicles – while also saving taxpayer dollars.”

Critics say it is possible that sugar beet juice is not the answer. They share concern the mixture 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.

The state DOT has testified in support of the bill.

Testing and timeline

Testing of the beet-salt mixture would be done in at least 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, now heads to the governor’s desk. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Michigan is available.

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Keith Goble

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.