With temperatures hitting record lows this winter, DPW crews are going the extra mile to make our roads safe for travel.

When it comes to clearing ice and snow on roadways, problems can arise when the temperature dips below freezing. Standard dry road salt needs moisture to dissolve in order to work as a de-icing agent. When temps hit sub-zero, the lack of moisture on the pavement makes standard road salt less effective. Collecting pavement temperature data and documenting air temperatures during and after precipitation events will help decision makers know what kind of products to use and how much to apply.  More frequently, communities are taking advantage of new technologies and methods that are ultimately less expensive than standard road salt, better for the environment, and most importantly, provide the level of safety the public expects during winter storm events.


Salt brine is typically a 23% salt/water mixture that can be applied to roads (anti-icing) before a storm event to prevent snow and ice from bonding to the roadway.  Anti-icing makes plowing operations more efficient, as the snow that has accumulated can be removed easily down to the pavement.  This process can help municipalities cut costs, as anti-icing reduces the amount of road salt that needs to be applied after the storm, and salt brine usually costs less than standard road salt.

Pre-wetting dry road salt with salt brine also reduces the amount of salt that must be used to enhance the safety of our roads.  20%-30% of dry salt will regularly bounce and scatter off the road, which means more dry salt is necessary to reach the desired safety level for traffic. A light coating of salt brine applied to road salt as it drops from the truck’s spinner keeps the salt on the road better than dry salt. 


  • The City of Pewaukee, WI began using salt brine during the 2011 -2012 winter season.  Previously, the City utilized combinations of salt and salt/sand mixtures for de-icing and snow removal operations.  The City decided to use salt brines for pre-wetting/deicing as it was reported the cost savings could range between 10% and 20% over the use of salt alone. 

  • The Village of Hartland, WI began pre-wetting salt in 2010 to keep snow from binding to the street and to reduce salt use in small storms.

  • On one Idaho Highway’s anti-icing (salt brine) efforts reduced accidents by 83% and labor costs by 62%.

  • The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, implemented new winter maintenance best management practices in 2006. With the use of salt-brine and pre-wetted salt, the University reduced their salt-usage by 48% and had a $55,000 cost savings their first year.


To further enhance the safety of your community’s streets, consider sharing your winter road management plan with the public so they know what to expect before, during, and after a winter storm event. You can communicate your processes through the local news, post it to your website, share it to social media, or send out a newsletter. However you choose to share information, doing so will help the public make wise choices and will likely save your staff from incoming phone calls asking for snow removal updates. Most importantly, remind your community of the importance of driving with extra caution during winter weather. Slow, safe driving is the best way to prevent accidents when the roads are slippery and wet.

Want to learn more ways to improve and maintain your municipal roadways? Contact an expert at R/M today!

About the Author

Maria Kealy

Maria C. Kealey, E.I.T. 
Project Engineer

Maria brings fresh innovation coupled with effective communication skills to her role as a project engineer. She has been employed with Ruekert & Mielke, Inc. (R/M) since 2015 while she completed her degree in Civil Engineering and obtained a certificate in Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. Maria has been involved in a wide array of projects thus far, providing her with comprehensive knowledge of the industry. She understands the needs of clients to exceed expectations. These skills allow her to efficiently manage projects and coordinate design efforts, while maintaining timely communication with community staff and residents.

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