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With snow looming in Dallas, TxDOT brines roads just like pastrami

With snow looming in Dallas, TxDOT brines roads just like pastrami

snow Houston ice car windshield
A little brine will do this up right. Photo by Jeff Blair/Statigram

Snow and ice may be on the way, and TxDOT is taking proactive steps.

Weather forecasters are predicting a storm system due to hit Dallas on January 2. NBC 5 says it'll start with light rain that could turn into sleet or light snow.

In anticipation of a snow event, TxDOT has begun pretreating main lanes, bridges, and overpasses in all seven counties of the Dallas District. According to a release, maintenance crews will be using brine to help prevent ice from sticking to the road surface.

Brine is something you hear around pickles and barbecue hounds. It's also become a big trend for turkey and especially fried chicken.

But in the past decade or so, it's being embraced as a strategy by cities to battle icy roads.

Salt lowers the freezing point of water. In the pre-brine days, solid rock salt would be sprinkled before and after snowfall. But a study by the New York Department of Transportation found that brine — a mixture of salt and liquid — applied before it snows was more effective than solid rock salt.

Brining — also known as "anti-icing" or "pre-wetting" — has the same ability to melt ice as rock salt, but since it's a liquid, the salt work more quickly.

Brine also puts less salt on the road: It takes four times less salt to prevent ice accumulation than to remove ice after it has formed.

"Anti-icing is currently recognized as a pro-active approach to winter driver safety by most transportation agencies," the study says. "Pre-wetting [using salt brines] has been shown to increase both the performance of solid chemicals and abrasives, as well as their longevity on the roadway surface, thereby reducing the amount of materials required."

TxDOT spokesperson Donna Simmons calls brine "ingenious."

"We use brine to pretreat," she says. "Pretreating raises the temperature of the ground so that the freezing point has to go lower in order for it to get icy. The brine goes on up to a week before the storm. Then, after the storm has hit the ground and turned into ice and snow, we use a gravel and sand mixture with some salt, like you would put on your stairs."

They began brining first thing on December 31.

"We do elevated surfaces first like the High-5, then the bridges over 30 and 635 and 80 and 635, and then we go back and do all the main roads," she says. "We'll spend all day today and tomorrow until the precipitation hits."

Some cities have used alternate sources for brine such as beet juice, cheese brine, and pickle brine, which was used in New Jersey.

TxDOT is reminding drivers to keep an eye out for crews and give them room to work, and suggests delaying travel if you have a choice. Visit DriveTexas.org for up-to-date road conditions.