Minnesota Advocates Propose Tools to Limit Road Salt Use

Winter-oriented road design can limit the amount of polluting chloride used on the state’s roads to mitigate winter conditions.

1 minute read

February 5, 2024, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Low close-up of salt sprinkled on asphalt road in winter with person walking and car in background.

DimaBerlin / Adobe Stock

A new road design movement in Minnesota aims to change the way we build roads and sidewalks to minimize the need for road salt, which can improve winter road conditions but also pollutes nearby water bodies with chloride. “Road salt damages vehicles, pavement and bridges, and it costs state and local governments.”

As Kirsti Marohn explains in an article for MPR News, “Low-salt design is the brainchild of Connie Fortin, a salt reduction expert who's trained more than 20,000 snowplow drivers and property maintenance workers over more than two decades.”

Developing road designs that account for where snow will pile up can reduce the need for road salt and speed up ‘pavement recovery’ without salt. For example, “Planting deciduous trees instead of coniferous along the south side of a sidewalk can reduce shadows. Designing a building so its parking lot gets full sun helps melt snow and ice quicker.”

According to Marohn, “While the design principles are voluntary right now, there’s a possibility they could become future requirements, as cities struggle to meet limits on the amount of chloride in the stormwater they are permitted to discharge into lakes and rivers.”

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