Road treatment gets mixed reviews
Ted Chamberlain is going to have the dirt road near his home treated with magnesium chloride, but he’s not happy about it.
Others, who live in subdivisions west of Craig, such as Western Knolls and Sunbird, think the treatments are a necessity to keep roads in good condition and keep dust down.
Moffat County Road and Bridge officials recently conducted a citizen survey about whether the county should treat the dirt roads around the subdivisions. Forty-four responses were returned of the 72 that were distributed, Road and Bridge Director Bill Mack said. About two-thirds of the respondents said they supported use of the chemical on roadways.
“I’ve been here 28 years, and the road’s been good except when put they magnesium chloride on it,” said Chamberlain, who lives off Barbara Lane in Western Knolls. “It gets slicker than the dickens around some of the corners.”
Chamberlain led a petition drive last year opposing the county’s use of the chemical on area roads. About 30 people in his area opposed use of the substance, he said. Chamberlain said the chemical can erode vehicles’ braking systems and cause roads to become slick.
But county officials took a break from using the compound last year in an effort to cut costs, Mack said. The treatment is needed to keep roads from resembling a washboard look and feel, which can make for dangerous driving conditions, he said. It also lowers the freezing point of water and can prevent snow from sticking or forming ice when applied before a snowstorm. Mack also said the treatment helps keeps dust down by drawing in moisture.
“It holds the road together,” Mack said.
The county has been treating about 100 miles of county roads with the substance for about the past 10 years, Mack said.
Thankfully, wet fall weather helped keep much of the dust down last year when employees took a hiatus from using the treatments, he said.
Still, county employees had to more aggressively grade dirt roads and control dust by watering roads. Therefore, officials didn’t realize much cost savings resulted from not using magnesium chloride, Mack said.
This year’s budget for the substance and its application is $219,000 — one of the road department’s steepest operation costs, Mack said. Last year, it was budgeted at $200,000.
According to the survey, some people said they preferred a few days of the inconvenience of having the roads treated with magnesium chloride compared with months of dusty roads. Others opposed the county using the substance because it makes roads “slimy,” it is hard to wash off, and it “rusts out the bottom of vehicles.”
According to a report published in October 2001 by the Truckload Carriers Association, effects of magnesium chloride can range from causing cosmetic damage to deteriorating a vehicle’s wiring system.
However, studies have shown that accident rates have decreased because of improved snow and ice removal. The Colorado Department of Transportation has tested magnesium chloride and reports that it is cost-effective and safe for the environment.
Mack said the substance is only applied to county roads, which receive the most traffic. The two subdivisions west of Craig lately have been experiencing more traffic and warrant the use of the substance.
“The comments are pretty much the same,” Mack said about the survey. Mack said the survey was intended to gauge public opinion, but not as a deciding factor for whether the department would consider using the compound.
“Some people don’t like it on their vehicles,” Mack said. “Other people don’t like the dust.”
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