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Synthesis of Info on Anti-Icing/Pre-Wetting

Started: September, 2004 Ended: August, 2005 Project ID #4W0169 Status: Completed


The purpose of this project was to develop a large volume of reference material, a detailed research document and brochure on the advantages and disadvantages of the use of anti-icing and pre-wetting for winter maintenance in the Pacific Northwest.


During winter, large amounts of solid and liquid chemicals, along with abrasives, are applied to the roadways to keep roads clear of ice and snow. The various chemicals are designed to melt ice and snow by lowering the freezing point of the snow-salt mixture. While such techniques are essential to maintaining driver safety, the growing use of chemicals has raised environmental concerns. A case study a few years ago found that highway runoff containing sediment can result in a decrease in diversity and productivity of aquatic ecosystems. Other research has indicated that the chemicals used for snow and ice control may cause corrosion in reinforced concrete structures, pavements, and vehicles. The cost of corrosion for the transportation and infrastructure sectors amounts to $52.3 billion annually, according to 2001 study by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). A new approach called “anti-icing,” which aims to prevent the bonding of ice to the road by spreading chemicals before the snowfall, has been adopted by some winter maintenance personnel. When applied correctly, anti-icing can reduce the required plowing and decrease the quantity of chemicals used. Another innovative practice in winter road maintenance is “pre-wetting,” which is the application of liquid chemicals to abrasives prior to use on roads. If cold, the pre-wet abrasives will quickly refreeze to the road surface and create a sandpaper-type surface, which can cut abrasive use by 50% in cold temperatures. If warm, chemicals can accelerate break-up of snowpack while providing a traction aid. The result of this project will be a detailed research document detailing the advantages and disadvantages of using anti-icing and pre-wetting techniques.


Files & Documents

Sponsors & Partners

  • Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Sponsor

Part of: Winter Maintenance and Effects, Cold Climate Operations & Systems

Project Tagged In: Anti-icing, winter road maintenance, pre-wetting

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