Michigan lawmaker says sugar beets may be better solution to salting snowy roads

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GENESEE COUNTY (WJRT) - (06/17/2019) - Sugar beets could make life on the roads much sweeter.

State Rep. Brian Elder, a Democrat from Bay City, introduced a new bill to the Michigan House calling for a study of mixing organic byproducts like sugar beet juice into salt.

Many road commissions already use organic additives to salt roads.

"If there's a better product out there that allows us to provide a better quality service to the motoring public, then by all means, absolutely take hold on it," said Randy Dellaposta, director of operations for the Genesee County Road Commission.

The road commission currently uses brine with a 32 percent sodium chloride boost, which he said has shown good results. But the agency is always open to new methods.

"Salt itself has corrosion towards it, though. When applied you want to get it and activate it,” said Dellaposta. “But yeah absolutely, having something that's safer for the environment is huge."

The Michigan Department of Transportation says different additives are being used all over the state. The goal is to reduce the usage of salt for the roads.

"Our biggest goal is to use a bunch of different types of efforts,” said Melissa Longworth, region support engineer of MDOT. “So we like to use new technology and we like to use the best practices and by using all these different techniques we use the minimum amount of salt is effective."

Elder's district is home to one of the largest producers of sugar in the country, the Michigan Sugar Company. He believes the change to mixing in sugar beet juice would help protect vehicles, water sources, and roads.

And ultimately save spending on salt usage.

"The more money that we can save when it comes to winter maintenance the more money we can put into our summer maintenance program," said Longworth.

Some areas like Farmington Hills have already begun using salt brine and beet juice. Other states like Wisconsin have explored things like cheese brine to help de-ice their roads.

The pilot program bill would still have to pass the House, Senate and be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law.

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