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Testing and Evaluation of Recovered Traction Sanding Material

Started: April, 2011 Ended: August, 2013 Project ID #4W3527 Status: Completed

Results & Findings

As described in the final report, an analysis of reuse and recycle options for salvaged traction sand was conducted using results of mechanical and chemical tests conducted on samples collected along the Bozeman Pass and the Lookout Pass areas. The results indicate there are viable alternatives to landfilling or roadside dumping of collected traction sand. The most appealing and cost-effective option is to reuse the collected material as traction sand in subsequent winters. A potential secondary option would be to process and mix (co-mingle) collected sand with gravel to produce a material that meets MDT gradation specifications for imported aggregate. The most promising co-mingling options are those that only necessitate the addition of finer aggregate and do not require additional coarse particles. MDT materials including plant mix surfacing, cement treated base, shoulder gravel, and crushed top surfacing could be economically produced by comingling collected traction sand with additional aggregate. Based on laboratory tests conducted to measure chemical and metals concentrations, it appears that the samples tested in this study have chemical and metal concentrations that are generally characteristic of naturally occurring background levels. Nonetheless, a quality assurance process is recommended before reusing recovered traction sanding material to confirm that unhealthy levels of contaminants are not present. An implementation plan outlining best practices for separating, collecting, testing and processing salvaged traction sand is described. The results of this study indicate that the practice of recycling and reusing traction sand could potentially save money by eliminating landfill costs and by reducing the amount of new abrasives and aggregates that are purchased every year.


The goal of this study is to evaluate the practical suitability and the cost effectiveness of a statewide program for recycling and reusing traction sand on Montana roadways.


Many local governments and transportation agencies, including MDT, collect winter sand from roadways following winter maintenance operations. While removing such materials helps to alleviate problems alongside highways, it can create storage/disposal problems unless cost effective alternatives to disposal in landfills can be identified and implemented. Traction material collected from roadways is heterogeneous in composition and particulate structure. The engineering properties of this material are largely unknown and the suitability of reuse options is mostly anecdotal. A sampling and testing program is needed to quantify the mechanical and the chemical properties of stockpiled traction sanding material. Only after the material properties are better understood can a reliable evaluation of cost-effective and implementable reuse options be identified. A thorough cost–benefit evaluation of identified alternatives is necessary prior to implementing any statewide reuse program.


Files & Documents

Sponsors & Partners

  • Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) Sponsor

Part of: Infrastructure Maintenance and Materials, Infrastructure Longevity and Sustainability

Project Tagged In: mechanical properties of traction sand, Properties of winter traction sand, re-use and recycle options for traction sand

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