Lawmakers will hear public testimony Friday on a bill that would make the Transportation Department reconsider the corrosive effect of the salt spray its using to melt ice and snow on Connecticut’s roadways.
Most agree the combination of salts the DOT has been spraying state roads with has been highly effective in keeping highways clear of ice. However, Rep. Pamela Sawyer, R-Bolton, said the “super salt” is also highly corrosive to vehicles and infrastructure.
“The problem is that it causes a lot of rust, we’ve heard a lot of complaints about rust on brake lines. Mechanics are saying they’re replacing brake lines every three years as opposed to every eight or 10,” Sawyer said.
The bill, which will have a public hearing in the Transportation Committee Friday, would require the department to study the rust issue and report back to lawmakers next year with ideas for alternatives or ways to mitigate the corrosion.
Sawyer said she is also concerned about the effect the solution may be having on Connecticut’s aging bridges, which she said the state has not allocated adequate resources to maintain.
“Oh, and by the way, we’re salting them. It’s just causing a much faster deterioration, not only on the top but as you go down into the metal substructure of the bridges they’re rusting out much faster,” she said.
Michael J. Riley, president of Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said the salt has improved the conditions of the roads but it’s also caused significant damage to trucks.
“These substances have corroded electrical components, deteriorated brake parts and even caused corrosion on the main frame of many vehicles. The problems created by these chemicals are well documented and have become an additional burdensome cost of doing business. And, they may well have compromised the safety of the motoring public,” Riley said in a prepared statement.
Riley said some truckers are questioning how the substances will impact the metal used in bridges and other types of transportation infrastructure.
Writing to Riley last month, Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said his department’s primary responsibility was to maintain the 5,700 miles of roads in Connecticut and has chosen the most efficient and cost-effective ways to do that. He said the salt the department uses also has less environmental impact than some of the alternatives.
“Consequences of road treatments are always a concern for the department, and we work to balance those consequences carefully, putting safety of the motoring public first. There is currently not an alternative application that works with any amount of effectiveness that is not corrosive,” Redeker wrote.
Redeker said the department has experimented with corrosion inhibitors and its experiences “were not positive.” He said the inhibitors did not noticeably reduce corrosion on the department’s equipment but received complaints sent to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection regarding the inhibitors’ impact on oxygen levels in water.
Riley said the truckers association was disappointed in Redeker’s response because other states use substances to mitigate the corrosion.
Sawyer said states like Maine and Colorado have begun using rust inhibitors because they have recognized the high cost of corrosion on their cars and bridges.
“Connecticut has to get very serious and come up with solutions,” she said.