Salt stor­age barns: The key to safe win­ter roads

The Calvert Recorder - Southern Maryland Automotive Trends - - News -

For most of us, if we ever think about salt stor­age, the salt shaker on our ta­ble prob­a­bly comes to mind. How­ever, for your lo­cal road and trans­porta­tion depart­ment, salt stor­age is all about keep­ing road salt prop­erly cov­ered and safe so it is avail­able for the depart­ment to use when it starts to snow.

At first glance, it is easy to won­der why road salt needs any sort of spe­cial stor­age, but dig­ging a lit­tle deeper into that road salt stock­pile soon shows why good stor­age prac­tices can be ex­tremely im­por­tant. Proper use of road salt as part of a win­ter main­te­nance pro­gram can re­duce crashes by be­tween 85 and 88 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a Mar­quette Univer­sity study.

Fur­ther­more, the use of road salt en­sures roads stay open and de­liv­er­ies are made, avoid­ing losses to state economies that can run in the hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars every day, ac­cord­ing to a IHS Global In­sight study.

THE NEED FOR PROPER STOR­AGE

So it is no real sur­prise, as we ap­proach the win­ter sea­son, that agen­cies are giv­ing sig­nif­i­cant thought to proper salt stor­age. For ex­am­ple, the City of Geneva in Ohio is plan­ning to con­struct a new salt stor­age fa­cil­ity that will be able to hold six times as much salt (1,800 tons) com­pared to the old fa­cil­ity that could only store 300 tons. Not only will this pro­vide a sus­tain­able salt stor­age so­lu­tion for the city, it will also give them enough stor­age that they will no longer have to rely on mid-win­ter de­liv­er­ies of salt.

Pre­vi­ously, in bad win­ters, they needed salt to be de­liv­ered in the mid­dle of win­ter when, of course, de­liv­ery is likely to be most dif­fi­cult. That can cause a lot of ner­vous worry about whether or not the salt will ar­rive in time, and when the new stor­age fa­cil­ity comes on line, those wor­ries will no longer be a con­cern.

Some­times, state de­part­ments of trans­porta­tion (DOT) will need to build new stor­age fa­cil­i­ties to make their op­er­a­tions more ef­fi­cient. This has been hap­pen­ing in Tennessee at exit 158 on In­ter­state 24. A planned new fa­cil­ity there will greatly im­prove ef­fi­ciency for the Tennessee DOT: in­stead of their trucks need­ing to “dead­head” (run back empty) to another fa­cil­ity nearly 80 min­utes away, they will be able to get reloaded and back on the road in less than 40 min­utes. That means more time for the trucks on the road, keep­ing those roads safe and pass­able, and thus pro­tect­ing the trav­el­ing pub­lic dur­ing win­ter storms.

AN IDEAL SO­LU­TION

It would be easy to think of a salt stor­age shed as just a build­ing with an im­per­me­able floor, but a look at the fa­cil­ity in Fort Collins, Colo., shows that it can in­volve a great deal more than that.

Larry Sch­nei­der, di­rec­tor of the city’s streets depart­ment and his team put a great deal of plan­ning, about five years’ worth, into their salt stor­age fa­cil­ity. They have doors at both ends of their build­ing so they can ac­cess salt to fill city trucks at one end, and get salt to make salt brine at the other end with­out any in­ter­fer­ence. They load their salt through a con­veyor sys­tem, that si­mul­ta­ne­ously weighs the salt as it is loaded into the dome, coats it with a spe­cial liquid so it is more ef­fec­tive, and places it in the right place in the dome to en­sure they make use of all the space in the build­ing.

The city’s liq­uids pro­gram uses a spe­cial dis­pens­ing sta­tion, a bit like a se­ries of fuel pumps, so that a num­ber of trucks can fill up with the right brine at the same time. They even took care to make sure the doors in the salt build­ing faced away from the pre­vail­ing wind di­rec­tion, to make the han­dling process eas­ier dur­ing win­ter storms.

All that plan­ning means trucks can fill up quickly and ef­fi­ciently in the mid­dle of the night dur­ing storms (and of course, dur­ing the day too!) and that the city can keep a close track on the salt and brine they use for their win­ter main­te­nance. As Sch­nei­der says, “We can’t man­age it if we don’t mea­sure it.” And a good salt stor­age barn helps them to keep track of the whole process.

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