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Reality Check: How one county did use salt on roads and didn't break the bank

(IMAGE: WPMI) Reality Check: How one county did use salt on roads and didn't break the bank

Dangerous icy roads led to dozens of accidents and hours of wasted time this week. We pressed state and city officials about their decision to use sand on our roads, even though it doesn't melt ice, instead of salt, which does. Both the city and state told us salt isn't cost effective, and they'd have to spend a lot of your tax dollars to store it. Today, we found a county just an hour away that found a cheap way to salt the roads and keep every bridge open in the process.

Icy roads caused 90 accidents in Mobile alone. Both 1-10 and 1-65 shut down, leaving truckers stranded. That time lost could wind up costing all of us.

"For each one of those trucks, each time they sit there for an hour, another $64 is lost in industry productivity. 2:44 When the trucking industry experiences that kind of lost productivity, it can't bear all that cost on its own and it starts to show up in the price of goods," said Rebecca Brewster, President and Chief Operating Officer of the American Transportation Research Institute.

Road departments in our area, including ALDOT did not pre-treat any of our roads ahead of the ice, instead choosing to toss sand on top of ice, which does not melt it. The City of Mobile used four new heavy-duty sand spreaders that cost taxpayers $34,000.

But Harrison County, Mississippi, which includes Biloxi and Gulfport, tackled the issue spending less than $7,000 using tailgate spreaders and 22 tons of salt.

"And right now, we're kind of glad we did that because we're using it a good bit," said road manager Russell Weatherly.

ALDOT and other road departments have argued it's not cost-effective to keep salt or maintain facilities that house it and other equipment, especially since sand is so readily available. Weatherly says they don't plan to keep salt on hand either, and the salt for this ice event was purchased at a local feed store. Weatherly says it worked much better than sand.

"The sand is only after the fact. It doesn't dissolve anything. It just provides traction on top of the ice. Then you have to handle it twice because you have to go back and remove it," said Weatherly.

Weatherly says by using salt versus sand they were able to keep every bridge and road open.

The City of Mobile said it's response to the ice was effective and cost-efficient but that it would be willing to look at other options in the future. Council members NBC 15 News spoke with say they would like to look at salting the roads next time and will bring up the issue at the next council meeting.

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