The middle of summer isn’t exactly when you want to start thinking about winter, but that’s what we have to do if we want to find the best way to keep roads safe during Edmonton’s upcoming snowy season. Last winter between February and March, 2017 the City launched an anti-icing pilot program that switched from traditional sodium chloride (salt) to a liquid calcium chloride solution with an added corrosion inhibitor in a number of test areas around the city.
You may have seen trucks driving around last winter spraying the roads with a thin layer of this liquid solution. Essentially, the calcium chloride works by preventing snow from sticking to the pavement, making it easier and faster to clear the snow once it falls, and reducing the need for plowing and sanding. Ideally, road surfaces treated before a snowfall have improved friction and lower stopping distances, which should mean fewer collisions. But the evidence of this is yet to come.
The major benefits of the pilot program were said to be increased safety and decreased cost because less sand can be used. But, there are concerns about the potential long-term effects to city and private infrastructure and vehicles from the solution, Addtionally, we’re not seeing strong evidence that it actually helps reduce collisions.
Costs saved by the City are reportedly being downloaded onto individual vehicle owners to cover the costs of higher levels of corrosion, which are estimated to range from $250 to $400 annually. This level of degradation affects both heavy haul and city vehicles too.
While it might seem that saving $4 million dollars is a win for the city, we are turning a blind eye to the fact that we are creating over a quarter of a billion dollars in damage. We have to consider the potential harm caused to infrastructure and the costs associated with those repairs. And we know that calcium chloride may not work as well in extreme cold as we had hoped and the safety benefits we thought we would see may not be materializing.
The City’s administration is saying another year of the pilot is necessary to gather the data needed to properly evaluate the effectiveness of the new solution.
Taking a step back to reassess the big picture, I think the answer is clear which direction we have to move. What appeared to be great cost savings and safety benefits now need to be more closely examined before expanding the pilot program this upcoming winter.
If you have questions about this or any other City issues, please feel free to contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), phone (780-496-8138) or follow me on Twitter (@ward4aaron).