Sand and Salt: Recipes Vary for Battling Ice

TxDOT uses chemical, but most cities say it's too expensive

By Scott Gordon
|  Wednesday, Jul 22, 2009  |  Updated 2:28 PM CDT
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Sand & Salt vs. Meltdown 20

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Cities across North Texas use different mixtures of sand and salt in the battle against icy streets, but very few of them use an expensive chemical that most agree is the most effective.

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Sand & Salt vs. Meltdown 20

TxDot uses Meltdown 20 to battle ice on roads, but most cities say the chemical is too expensive.
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Cities across North Texas use different mixtures of sand and salt in the battle against icy streets, but very few of them use an expensive chemical that most agree is the most effective.

The Texas Department of Transportation spreads a mix of sand and magnesium chloride called “Meltdown 20.”

"It is expensive,” said Val Lopez, of TxDOT. “And even though it impacts our budget significantly, we feel it improves driving conditions."

He estimated it costs $40,000 per day just to treat highways in Tarrant County with the chemical.

TxDOT is responsible for clearing area highways, while cities focus more on major streets within city limits.

"It does work well,” said Fort Worth spokeswoman Janice Thompson-Burgess. “But if you look at the cost of that, then we have to analyze that for our residents, and we don't get enough icy storms to stockpile that or to purchase that."

Fort Worth uses a mixture of 95 percent sand and 5 percent salt.

“We've found that our mixture works well for us,” Thompson-Burgess said.

Other cities use sand and salt, but with a slightly different recipe.

Dallas, for example, uses a mixture of 90 percent sand and 10 percent salt.  In Arlington and Plano, it’s 20 percent salt.

In Denton, the city uses sand only and no salt.

Dallas is one of the few cities to use Meltdown 20.  But because of its expense, it is only used in the downtown business district.

“We just find salt and sand work pretty well,” said Kelly High, director of the Dallas Streets Department.

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