S3E3 Winter Roads, Salt, and the Slippery Slope

This episode of Maine Policy Matters explores the findings of a report on the use of road salt in Maine, “Road Salt and Maine: An Assessment of Practices, Impacts, and Safety,” which was published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. They report presents the results from a research project by a team from the University of Maine in cooperation with the Maine Department of Transportation that examines the use of road salt and Maine for winter travel safety.

[00:00:00] Eric Miller: A classic public policy dilemma. What do we do to limit the bad impacts of salting our winter roads while keeping the good impacts? Tune into today’s episode to find out. This is the Maine Policy Matters Podcast from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. I’m Eric Miller, research associate at the center.

On each episode of Maine Policy Matters, we discuss public policy issues relevant to the state of Maine. Today we will be covering a report by Jonathan Rubin, Shaleen Jain, Ali Shirazi, et al. titled, “Road Salt and Maine: An Assessment of Practices, Impacts and Safety.” In their report, they present the results from a research project by a team from the University of Maine in cooperation with the Maine Department of Transportation that examines the use of road salt in Maine for winter travel safety.

This report was published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center in April, 2022. Maine Policy Review is a peer reviewed academic journal published by the Policy Center. We’ll first briefly summarize the article and then speak with Jonathan Rubin and Brian Burne, a highway maintenance engineer for the state of Maine.

Since 2010, there’s been an increase in accumulation of chlorides and freshwater and groundwater environments due to road salt in Maine, a trend consistent with rest of the Northeastern United States. The State of Maine has 45,586 miles of public roadway, more miles per person than any other New England state.

This mileage is maintained by the MaineDOT, Maine Turnpike Authority, as well as 483 municipalities in 16 counties, as well as three reservations. There are largely three best management practices regarding dealing with snow and ice on the roads. De-icing, pre-treating roads with brine and pre-wedding, the salt as it’s being spread.

The latter two of those options being considered anti-icing. Anti-icing and de-icing are different approaches to achieving the same goal. Anti-icing is different from de-icing largely due to the timing of the treatment. Anti-icing is a pre-treatment of the road before snow and ice start to stick, while de-icing involves removing ice already on the road by plowing snow and applying sand for temporary retraction and salt to melt the ice.

Anti-icing is a principle best management practice by MaineDOT and currently uses this approach on almost all state roads by treating them before ice and snow are able to bond to the roadway. The Maine Turnpike Authority uses this on the entire turnpike. A survey shows that roughly 28% of Maine’s municipalities use anti-icing while the rest use the de-icing approach.

As mentioned earlier, anti-icing is a strategy that utilizes the application of pre-wetted salt early in the storm, or by pre-treating the roads with a liquid brine. Pre-treating the roads with a liquid brine before a storm is another best management practice as mentioned earlier. Maine Turnpike Authority and MaineDOT do not use this method.

12% of municipalities reported pre-treating their roads. However, it is not specified whether a liquid brine was the treatment of choice as opposed to pre-wetted salt. Pre-wetting salt involves the process of wetting solid salts as they’re being applied, which has been shown to reduce the amount of salt that ends up in the ditch off the road.

Pre-wetting can be an anti-icing strategy that the MaineDOT and Maine Turnpike Authority employ. Statewide, 71% of municipality surveyed that they never wet their salt before spreading. Ruben et al. report that the most widely used material on winter roads in Maine is rock salt, or sodium chloride because it’s cost effective and easy to handle.

The total bulk salt purchases from distributors in the state in 2019 to 2020 amounts to approximately 535,000 tons. According to the author’s calculations, they estimate approximately 493,000 tons, about 91% of the 535,000 tons of total bulk salt were used by the MaineDOT, Maine Turnpike Authority, and municipal governments.

This 9% is likely explained by the non-road use of salt on commercial and industrial parking lots and other private uses. This means that Maine uses roughly 787 pounds of salt for every Maine resident, or about 11 tons per lane mile per year. They also estimate that the cost of clearing winter roads statewide is 155 million, which translates to $114 per resident.

MaineDOT is obligated to resolve well claims for private water supplies that are destroyed, or rendered unfit for human consumption by constructing, reconstructing, or maintaining a highway, including the use of salts for winter road maintenance. This means that MaineDOT has spent an additional 53 million since 2006 to investigate, assess, and resolve well claims.

While winter road maintenance practices allow for high levels of safety and mobility for residents, the consequences of our road salt use can be seen in the reduced water quality of some streams, contaminated wells, infrastructure and vehicle corrosion, and state and municipal budgets. Ruben et al. explained that “as salt use increases, so do its impacts. One way to reduce salt is to change drivers’ expectations of travel during a storm.” Much of the impacts from road salt are to the aquatic environments in both the short and long term. Winter road maintenance is a significant source of total chloride loading to fresh waters. The short term effects are directly related to the seasonal timing of salt use with peak levels occurring in spring and fall.

Several long-term studies have shown an increase in chloride trend as well. This can be seen in the list of 20 streams the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has made of chloride impaired urban stream watersheds.

Just as we discussed in episode one of the season with regard to wind development, Maine can learn from other states regarding how to manage road salt impacts. For example, Connecticut has followed New Hampshire’s statewide program for training and liability protection to winter contractors. New York has also proposed a road salt applicator training program. They also piloted a program for road salt reduction that is saving the state costs in some Adirondack communities.

The main reason salt is used on our road is to ensure traffic safety for those who need to travel after a storm. According to the report, approximately 67% of all lane departure crashes from 2010 to 2019 occurred during the winter period. Federal Highway Administration data shows that the winter period accounted for an economic loss value of 618 million on a yearly average during the 2010 through 2019 period.

MaineDOT also reported that the yearly average cost was 309 million dollars from fatalities alone. The author suggests a few recommendations for mitigating the ongoing concern for road salt use.

The first is that the public needs to better understand the fiscal and environmental costs of winter maintenance. They suggest that all levels of government- MaineDOT, Maine Turnpike Authority, as well as municipal- need to better articulate the tradeoffs for different levels of service.

The second is their recommendation that Maine develop a statewide chloride reduction plan that identifies and prioritizes salt reduction in regions with environmentally sensitive areas on already impacted areas. To accomplish this, they suggest MaineDOT and MaineDEP increase their monitoring of chlorides and water bodies and make this information easily accessible to the public through a data dashboard, which would also contribute to the goal of public awareness. Funding sources should also be identified to help underfunded municipalities upgrade their equipment training and winter practices.

Finally, the authors recommend collaboration. They write, “Maine could benefit from stronger connections between university research, environmental monitoring, and road practitioners. An examination of the partnership structures and practice in other states in New England at both state and municipal levels may offer models for collaborative partnerships in Maine.”

Now that we have covered the report, we’ll hear from Jonathan Rubin, professor at the University of Maine, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, and contributor to the report. After him, we’ll hear from Brian Burne, a highway maintenance engineer for the MaineDOT.

Thank you for joining us today, Jonathan.

[00:08:38] Jonathan Rubin: My pleasure. Thank you, Eric.

[00:08:40] Eric Miller: So to start off, what are some of the most significant trends and differences since your last report that was released 10 years ago?

[00:08:48] Jonathan Rubin: Well, I think in some senses what’s changed is really what has not changed. What has changed is the weather.

Climate change has made the frequency and intensity of storms greater. We’ve all seen that very recently, and with the changing weather, you do get changing freezing thaw patterns, which changes the way you want to manage and control your winter maintenance. That is, that physical change is something we have to adapt to in the state in terms of our winter maintenance practices.

Also what’s changed and yet stayed the same, is that the costs are still high. About 10 years ago when we did this, it was about a hundred million dollars across the Maine Turnpike Authority, the Maine Department of Transportation and the municipal governments, with municipal governments covering about 80% of the roadway in terms of maintenance.

And now we’re at up to about 150 million dollars. So in some senses, what stayed the same is that the costs are still really high, and they’re going high for a number of reasons, including weather, as I mentioned, but also the price of inputs goes up, price of labor goes up. So our costs are not declining, but in fact rising over that time period. And that’s something that everybody should care about.

[00:09:59] Eric Miller: Yeah. And not every town feels in Maine, feels the effects equally, as Maine is a, from a biophysical standpoint, experiences very different conditions from coastal to mountainous ranges. So the way that you finished the last bit of your answer there about how costs are changing recently, do you expect to have winter costs to continue to rise?

[00:10:26] Jonathan Rubin: I do. Costs are gonna rise unless we collectively as a state, that means Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Turnpike Authority, and the towns right. The towns are responsible for 80% of winter road maintenance. So unless people make changes to the way we maintain our roads, how quickly we clear them, get them down to pavement- if unless we make changes, why we are not gonna expect any changes in the cost. Because materials are not gonna get cheaper. Labor’s not gonna get cheaper. Equipment’s not gonna get cheaper. So there’s no reason to think the costs are gonna go down unless we make changes, and those are gonna be policy changes at the state and local level.

[00:11:05] Eric Miller: That makes a lot of sense.

So something I found pretty interesting about the report is that many towns spend quite a variation of range of costs in terms of maintaining the roads in winter, even if they’re at similar sizes. Would you care to elaborate on why that is?

[00:11:24] Jonathan Rubin: Well, some of the cost differences in towns are due to just where they are. Western interior is quite a bit different in terms of needs versus southern coastal, versus an island community. They have very, they are very different towns in terms of snow impacts, ice impacts, freeze thaw cycles. So part of it is just fate of where people are, but some of it is also policy decisions.

Some towns clear sidewalks, others don’t. And so that clearing sidewalk cost goes into the winter maintenance costs. So those are, again, I’m not saying I love, I’m a walker, I think we should clear sidewalks. Not saying we shouldn’t, but that is a reason why you have some cost differences in towns.

Another major reason you have cost differences in towns, we think because it’s hard to know for sure, but we think it’s because of choices that towns are making. How quickly to get the roads clear. How do we- do our secondary or tertiary roads brought down to bare pavement, or is some standing snow left there for, and people are told to slow down and drive more slowly on snowpack roads. Now what you expect for the interstate is not what you’re gonna expect coming out your driveway.

And there’s differences in those types of roads and how to maintain them. So some of that is a choice. Another difference is some towns use their own employees, municipal employees for these and other towns contract out to to private contractors. Again, those explain some of the differences in the per town cost.

But not all. I think a lot of this may come down to, and it’s hard to know for sure, but a lot of this may come down to just this policy level choices at the town about how quickly they want snow cleared and how thoroughly.

[00:13:11] Eric Miller: I see. It’s, I know that me personally driving around in winter particularly after a storm, I was in Hamden recently and I saw a flurry of contractors clearing out all of the, what I believe to be contractors, whether it’s by municipality or individual businesses were putting in a lot of work.

And so it’s interesting to get an idea of how some of these operations vary so much because you think it’s snow clearing. So it seems like a pretty uniform type of approach, but in fact, there are significant differences in how different areas handle their specific situation and decide to go with the route that they do.

[00:13:54] Jonathan Rubin: Yeah, that’s correct. So some of it’s beyond, so some of it is beyond the controlled towns and some is within, is within their control. And these are things that towns should talk about. We talk about school budgets, we talk about police budgets. I think talking about winter maintenance budgets and expectations is a perfectly reasonable thing for towns to talk about because it affects our tax rates.

[00:14:11] Eric Miller: Absolutely, and the cost outlined in the report which I encourage people to check the executive summary of the report because there are some pretty shocking figures in there. To finish things off what is something you’d like to share that we haven’t covered already?

[00:14:26] Jonathan Rubin: I think one thing we know that safety we, why do we clear roads? We clear these roads for mobility and safety, and it’s really important. I wouldn’t want anyone to say Professor Rubin or Jonathan Rubin is advocating we don’t clear our roads. We need clear roads for our economy and for safety. And it’s not an either or, these are choices that we make. But safety is something we really have to pay attention to, especially with younger drivers and older drivers.

And so I think, thinking of just remembering, getting to your destination as fast as possible after snow days may not be the wisest choice.

[00:15:07] Eric Miller: Makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much for joining us today Professor Rubin and I look forward to having you on again some time.

[00:15:15] Jonathan Rubin: Thanks, Eric.

[00:15:17] Eric Miller: Thanks for joining us, Brian.

[00:15:19] Brian Burne: Sure. Glad to be here.

[00:15:21] Eric Miller: The MaineDOT costs related to winter expenditures have risen from about 30 million to 46 million from fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2020. What are the most significant reasons for this increase?

[00:15:35] Brian Burne: Well, when you look at two specific winters, like those two, a lot of that is just related to the winter severity.

So we had a little bit more of a milder, actually it was quite mild winter, back in 15 to 16. And you know, the 19 to 20 winter was a little more severe. But absolutely snow and ice costs have, you know, just been on a continuous increase for the last decade or so, and especially in this past year.

And that’s on pretty much every single line item. So when you’re looking at labor all of those costs relating to labor all the benefits for the labor ,that’s all increased. Salt increased dramatically. This past year, it went from $63 a ton on average, that MaineDOT pays up to over $80 a ton.

So that was a very dramatic increase. That hit us all at once. Same thing with trucks. Trucks have gotten very expensive. If you can get ’em, they’re very difficult to even get. It’s very difficult to get parts. All the parts have increased. Plow blades, we used to be down around, say $35 a foot, and now you’re up around a hundred.

It’s just been every single thing that you can think of has increased in cost. You know, not only just the regular cost of living increases that you normally see, but there’s just been all the challenges that are facing more than just the snow and ice industry right now. They’re facing a lot of industries but they’ve all kind of hit and hopefully they’re gonna not be quite so bad going forward. You know, the, we’ve seen the diesel prices spike up and, you know, now they seem like they’re stabilizing a little bit, and hopefully they’ll stay that way, but or maybe even go back down, which would be nice. But yeah it’s been quite an increase over, over time.

[00:17:20] Eric Miller: Wow. MaineDOT has, is similarly affected to economic conditions as the rest of us. Which I, we in the public don’t hear about specifically these things very much. I had no idea, like the price of salt, for instance. Do you mind elaborating on, I’m very curious about why salt prices increased for folks like you.

[00:17:43] Brian Burne: Sure. Yeah. Well, I don’t know if many people realize, but there, there’s plenty of salt. There’s no shortage of salt on the, on Earth. We get most of our salt from Chile. And but what it relies on, of course, is the availability of ocean freight. And of course, any fuel costs associated with running all of that freight are gonna affect it as well.

So it’s based on just supply and demand of the ships that are out there and on the fuel. Moving that salt from Chile up to Maine ,it’s like a full week process to do that. They come right through the Panama Canal and it’s just you know, that becomes more expensive. So that’s been what’s mostly affected that.

We also get salt from mines around the country. Sometimes you can get ’em out of New York, sometimes you get ’em outta Canada. Northern Maine is supplied from a mine up in Sussex, new Brunswick. That used to be a POTASH mine and salt mining salt was a waste product of that. But they’ve started mining salt only out of that mine in the last couple of years.

So we get some out of there. And you know, that price went up just as much. In fact that’s our most expensive salt that’s up close to a hundred dollars a ton.

[00:18:58] Eric Miller: Wow. Okay. I had no idea. The global supply network of salt, fascinating. And the salt, one of those resources that human civilization has been mining and getting in some way or another forever. And the fact that it’s not a scar resource is amazing, but also makes a ton of sense.

So in the report crashes were demonstrated to have been increased during snow and rain. How can drivers best avoid an accident and make roads safer?

[00:19:27] Brian Burne: Yeah, I, that, that is key. It’s, you know, as your, the Mara Chase Smith Center report calls out, there’s a lot that goes on with snow and ice control. It’s not just what MaineDOT does, but it’s what we do as a society and you know, what we expect our roads to be like. And how long of a, you know, a disruption can we take with a storm? How long can it take to get back to bare pavement and things like that.

But a big part of that, of course, is all of us as individuals taking a look at what our needs are. And if we are the type of person that lives in Maine and has a need to be out driving in storms, you wanna make sure that your vehicle’s prepared for that. Going into the winter, you want to take a good look at your tires and if you are someone who has to drive in most storms, you need snow tires.

It’s these all season ones. It’s, that’s really not what an all season tire is best for is running in a Maine winter. There’s a huge difference. To put snow tires on a vehicle. So if you’re gonna be running out in storms, do that. If you can avoid storms for the most part, like if you can, you know if you are using vacation or if your business, you know, shuts down during most snow storms, or you can, you know, however you avoid it.

If there’s ways to avoid travel during the storms, then you might be able to get by with an all season type of tire. But if you’re gonna be out in it, you’re really gonna want an all season tire. Now a lot of people think of that as an extra expense. You know, you’re buying two sets of tires, but one of the things that they don’t consider is the fact that when you’re changing to a snow tire in the fall and changing back to your regular tires in the spring, you’re rotating those tires.

So the tires, both sets are gonna last much longer. And, you know, so you really don’t, in the long run, the cost is not that different. It’s actually better for you. And the fact that you are safer in your travels during the winter because you’ve got more appropriate tires for that you know, that’s even more important.

So that’s the first thing is. Just make sure that you think about how you need to drive during the winters in Maine and that your vehicle is prepared for that. Now when you get into a specific storm or you know, just driving in any kind of, you know, problematic weather, it’s just a matter of slowing down.

You know, a lot of times people just get rushing and you know, some of the most dangerous storms of the snow squalls, and I think that’s just because the day’s bright and clear and people are just trucking along and then they come flying right into a snow squall and they’re just in the middle of a condition that they hadn’t really, it hadn’t built up on ’em, you know, it just was on ’em before they knew it.

And it’s one of the causes of some of the most severe crashes that are out there. So when you see snow, when you drive into snow, just slow it down. The slower you can go, the better off you’re gonna be. ‘Cause once you get space between the road and your tires, there’s really not a heck of a lot you can do. So you just gotta make sure that you’re going slow enough that the impacts are lessened.

[00:22:33] Eric Miller: Makes a lot of sense. I saw in the report that as speeds increased, as did crashes and

[00:22:40] Brian Burne: Absolutely.

[00:22:41] Eric Miller: And this, if you could avoid the storm, that’s great, but if you can’t, snow tires and slow down. Makes, makes perfect sense to me.

[00:22:50] Brian Burne: Yeah, they’ve got a lot of really good snow tires out there now. The technology of snow tires has gotten better and there’s some out there that are just as good as snow tires with studs, and they don’t have studs. So there’s a lot of really nice stuff out there. So yeah, you can spend a little bit of time looking up some ratings and things like that. And you know, there’s some good options.

[00:23:11] Eric Miller: Good to know. Good to know. Looking forward, how does MaineDOT think about climate change and technological development with regard to snow and ice control? Could you speak to how these factors affect infrastructure and budgetary planning? How does it vary across coastal and more populated areas in this state, versus northern western Maine. A nice and easy one for you. We warmed up to it.

[00:23:36] Brian Burne: Yeah, there’s quite a lot there to unpackage. I guess what let’s take that in pieces. Snow and ice control, it’s kind of unique in that there’s aspects of it that don’t change a whole lot. And that piece is mostly the fact that you’re using a freeze point depressant of some sort. So that’s typically sodium chloride that we’re using to do that. To battle the snow and ice, and that’s been around for decades and that’s probably gonna be around for, you know, for the foreseeable future basically.

That really doesn’t change too much. But a lot of the technology affecting the information that we get you know, the information we use to make decisions, the equipment that we use, all of that changes pretty regularly. And as the technology’s always advancing in that regard.

So just as an example that we use, these weather stations called Road Weather Information Systems. And if you’re driving down the interstate, you might see it’s, it looks like a utility pole right behind some guardrail and it’s got a bunch of solar panels and devices on it.

And what these devices are, is they’re just weather monitoring devices. There’s a camera on there and there’s pavement, temperature sensors, and you know, just all sorts of things that are gathering information for us. So we put these in various locations along the highways, and then we can also do a thing that’s called thermal mapping, which is where we drive the corridor, the entire corridor that these RWIS stations are located on, and we get a thermal profile of the roadway surface, and you do this under some different conditions.

So what this does is it shows you your warmer spots and your cooler spots on the highway, but it’ll also relate it to your RWIS so that now you can look at an RWIS and it can now predict that, okay, this is the information at this one spot where all these sensors are located, but yet four or five miles up the road, you now have an idea of what’s going on up there as well because you have this thermal mapping profile that goes up through there.

So that’s just, one example of tools that, you know, are fairly new in helping us understand what’s going on with the roadways. They’re useful for predicting when your temperatures are dropping down and hitting the dew point and you’re getting moisture coming out of the air and freezing up the road surface. We can now predict that a little more accurately than we used to be able to in the past. So that’s just one piece of it.

Another piece of technology that’s associated with those same stations is what’s called a grip sensor. So this is just a video device that looks at the roadway, but yet it’s able to figure out whether you’ve got water on the road, ice on the road, snow on the road, or a combination thereof.

And it sort of calculates how slippery that road surface is. So this helps us make decisions on when to apply and how much to apply to the roads. So it’s a very useful tool in that regard. It’s also good for providing some metrics. It helps us understand that when we treat a road, how long did it take for that road to recover?

So this is, you know, really useful technology. That same type of technology is now available on mobile devices. So we can now attach this type of device to a truck and drive a corridor and get a profile of the grip along that entire corridor so you can find the areas that are slippery in the areas that are not so slippery.

So then another aspect of technology that comes into play with this, is a process called MDS S, which is a maintenance decision sports system where trucks are outfitted with, it’s GPSAVL. There’s a lot of different terms for it, but it’s basically you are tracking where all your vehicles are located throughout your network and you can also see how much salt they’re applying and you’re recording all of that.

When you’re looking at your fleet and you’re looking at the salt applications and you’re looking at the coming weather and the past weather and the impacts that your salt applications have had on the corridor, all of this can be combined into these systems, that these MD SS systems that then helps snow fighters take and make decisions about what their next application might be and when it might be into the future.

So there’s just a lot of improvements in technology that take the basic art of applying salts and sands and things of that to a roadway surface with a truck. But also being able to really make sure that there’s a level of accuracy in there that we never had the ability to reach before.

[00:28:21] Eric Miller: Wow, that is so fascinating and makes sense. And what a tool to help make more efficient decisions, especially among increasing costs. I imagine that you can make allocation decisions much more informed and, that’s, yeah, enraptured by that.

[00:28:41] Brian Burne: Yeah.

[00:28:41] Eric Miller: Thank you.

[00:28:42] Brian Burne: From a, yeah, from a you know, a region sort of a standpoint the other thing that this has helped us with is, you know, monitoring of more remote locations. A lot of these types of devices come with the ability to send alerts so you can set up alerts that say, if I see the temperature dropping and it looks like the road’s gonna freeze send a text message, you know, or send an email or you know, and we have a transportation management center that’s running 24/7 and they’re getting these alerts and these notifications so that they can call out the crews in a more timely manner than we were able to without these tools.

[00:29:19] Eric Miller: Very interesting. So in terms of the technological innovations are fascinating. So in the coastal areas and, as opposed to up over into the more mountainous spots, we have this freezing th thawing happening a lot in the winter. Over the past few years, and looking ahead, it seems like that’ll be more of the status quo. And Maine’s pretty used to ice, so, how have these, how have those conditions affected some of the decision making? That might be different if you, if I’m up over in more mountainous like Somerset County area.

[00:30:00] Brian Burne: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. As the temperature’s warm we are seeing more icing. We’re seeing later freezing of the ground.

So like you just take a look at this year you know, it’s getting really cold today, but this has been, you know, January was one of the warmer Januarys and we have a system for tracking our roads for when the frost comes into the ground and when the frost leaves the ground. Because as you may or may not be aware when you get into the spring months and frost that’s leaving the ground, your roads go into this really vulnerable state that affect how we can truck on those roads. Because we have to start limiting weights, otherwise the pavements get ruined. And we used to count on a fairly lengthy time during the winter of, you know, totally frozen ground that adds extra support and allows you know, extra weight even.

In fact, there’s even a law on the books that looks at axle weights not being enforced through the January February timeframe because the roads. We’re assumed to be not as susceptible. But yet here we are now in a global warming situation where, when January and February was always solidly frozen, it has not been this year. In a lot of areas.

So that’s a kind of a challenge for us when you’re looking at you know, so your question was about comparing the mountains with the coast. Yeah. I mean, we’re certainly gonna continue to have the more of the icing right along the coast even more but I think what’s also happening is we’re starting to see more icing than we ever used to see in more of Northern Maine and Western Maine, because, you know, by the time you get far enough away from the ocean you didn’t really have as much of that going on, but we’re seeing more of it with this warming that’s been happening.

So it, it adds a different level of challenges to snow and ice control because certainly as you’re adding more moisture and you’re getting more freezing rain types of events, these will dilute your salt products much quicker. And so as they get diluted, they have to be replenished more readily. So that becomes more of an expense.

[00:32:15] Eric Miller: Okay. Thank you for indulging the question, or questions rather.

[00:32:19] Brian Burne: Sure.

[00:32:19] Eric Miller: The MaineDOT is armed quite a few tools at their disposal. Quite fascinating how these specific technologies can be employed in ways that you never interact with. You just see as an average citizen, plows out on the road.

You might see MaineDOT trucks or people on the side of the road taking like traffic measurements. Otherwise you don’t really see what’s going on there. So we get a little peek behind the curtain. I’m really enjoying that. Before we go, is there something you’d like to share that we haven’t covered in our few minutes this morning?

[00:32:52] Brian Burne: Well, basically I think it’s just good to you know, share that report that the Margaret Chase Smith Center had written. I think it brings up a lot of good points and makes some of these things, share some of these concepts with people. So that people understand that snow and ice control is, it’s a choice that we can make.

We can choose to have a little bit lower level of service, end up saving a little bit of money. You know, it takes a little longer for the roads to come back, but yet you have less of an impact on the environment and things of that nature. But the more that you push for bare repavement quicker, there’s a, there’s repercussions to that. It’s, it requires more materials and there’s gonna be more potential impacts resulting from salt on the environment.

So it’s a definitely a balancing act that MaineDOT and all the other public works entities across the state and in any winter climate are constantly wrestling with because you certainly don’t want to see accidents on the road.

You want people to be safe to get from point A to point B, but there are a lot of other factors that all come together to decide how any particular road is treated and handled from a policy basis.

[00:34:08] Eric Miller: Always those pesky trade-offs.

[00:34:10] Brian Burne: Yeah.

[00:34:10] Eric Miller: Thank you for joining us this morning, Brian. It’s really been a pleasure.

[00:34:14] Brian Burne: Okay, thanks.

[00:34:17] Eric Miller: What you just heard was a summary of a report titled “Road Salt in Maine, an Assessment of Practices, Impacts and Safety” and an interview with Jonathan Rubin and Brian Burne. There is a link to the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center’s website in the description of this episode where the report can be found. Maine Policy Review is a peer reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.

For all citations for data provided in this episode, please refer to the original article in Maine Policy Review. The editorial team for Maine Policy Review is made up of Joyce Rumery, Linda Silka and Barbara Harrity. Jonathan Rubin directs the Policy Center. Thank you to Jayson Heim and Kathryn Swacha, script writers for Maine Policy Matters, and to Daniel Soucier, our production consultant.

In two weeks, we’ll be covering the past, present, and future of race and public policy in Maine. We’d like to thank you for listening to Maine Policy Matters from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. You can find us online by searching Maine Policy Matters on your web browser.

If you enjoyed this episode, please follow us on your preferred social media platform to stay updated on new episode releases. I’m Eric Miller, thanks for listening and please join us next time on Maine Policy Matters.