The results are preliminary, but the limited evidence suggests that adding rock salt to the ice-fighting arsenal for Interstate 84 can help prevent crashes and the extended closures of the freeway that have become common over the past several winters.
The efficacy of salt is hardly shocking, of course.
The chemical’s ice-melting properties hardly qualify as a Manhattan Project-level scientific secret.
Snowplow drivers for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) have spread about 1,000 tons of salt this month on I-84 between the Idaho border and Cabbage Hill near Pendleton.
Drivers say they’re impressed with how effective salt is at preventing snow and ice from accumulating on the freeway.
This winter thus far has been less malevolent than its predecessor, to be sure.
But the snowstorm that swept through on Christmas Eve was more than a stray flurry. And although snow coated the freeway, it remained open, and there were relatively few wrecks.
We understand ODOT’s reluctance to scatter salt. In addition to melting ice, the compound accelerates the corrosion of metal. Salt can also wash into streams and rivers, harming fish habitat. That’s one reason ODOT is applying salt at a lower rate than is typical in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
Drivers who travel salt-treated routes — Baker City’s Public Works Department uses salt at some intersections — can greatly curb the negative effects of salt by washing their vehicles more frequently, and in particular by going through a brushless car wash that has an undercarriage spray option.
We think the benefits of salt, in reducing accidents and, more importantly, potentially saving lives, outweigh its negative effects.
Ultimately, though, the most crucial factor in this equation, as always, is a competent, careful driver who adjusts to changing conditions.
From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.