Sugar beet molasses will cover the highway this winter.
The State Highway Administration is testing the sugar beet molasses byproduct on I-70, between Md. 32 in Howard County and I-270 in Frederick County.
The $25,000 pilot program is small in comparison with this year’s total $26 million state snow budget.
SHA spokesman David Buck said it’s always good that the administration is looking at new technologies. The molasses and brine project will be used to pre-treat roads and pre-wet road salt to help it stick better, Buck said.
The product will be used in a small concentration with the brine, a combination of sodium chloride and water — essentially a liquid salt, Buck said.
The more eco-friendly project will have no discoloration and won’t stick to vehicles’ tires.
“I don’t want people to think it will be coming out like caramel corn,” Buck said. “Motorists won’t notice a difference.”
The molasses will be diluted once it is mixed with the salt and Buck said it will be more effective in pre-treating roads.
Ice Bite, the over-the-counter name for the product, is “just another tool,” Buck said. A long-term goal of SHA is to save on the amount of salt used to treat roads in winter.
This isn’t something the administration will use in a big storm of 6 to 10 inches. The intent is to keep roads open and in good shape.
“We would not be using this if it hadn’t been tested elsewhere in many other locations,” Buck said. Colder areas with more snow, such as Ohio and Michigan, have used the product.
Buck said drivers shouldn’t expect Ice Bite to make the roads substantially better, but it will help.
“This is the kind of thing we would use before one of those iffy storms,” he said. “We might get snow, we might get rain.”
Certain atmospheric conditions lead maintenance workers to know when and where to use the product, he said.
SHA will look to expand use of sugar beet molasses in the future, but will stick to the test area this winter.
About 10 years ago, Buck said SHA used a different type of corn byproduct to help treat the roads, but didn’t pursue it beyond its initial two years in service.