JEFFERSON CITY - Beets are not only healthy to eat, but research proves they can keep you safer on the roads as well. For the past few years, the Missouri Department of Transportation has been using an anti-icing product called Geomelt made from sugar beets to help keep the roads clear.
"Anything that keeps roads safer during extreme temperatures and bad weather means more lives saved," said Jim Carney, MoDOT's State Maintenance Engineer. "Because of the great results we've seen using beet juice, we've increased usage almost 700 percent over the last couple of years."
MoDOT first started testing Geomelt in northwest Missouri in 2006, and now is using it statewide. In 2008, the department used 35,000 gallons of Geomelt. Last winter, 242,000 gallons were used. So far this year, at the end of 2009, 78,000 gallons of the juice assisted crews in fighting winter storms.
Beet juice is a natural product that works well when mixed with either rock salt or liquid salt brine to keep ice from forming on the roads before a storm. It also helps melt snow and ice once they are already on the roads.
Combined with salt, the beet juice freezes at a lower temperature than just salt alone so it can be used when the weather is colder - even at temperatures closer to zero. The mixture reduces the corrosive properties of salt and improves its effectiveness. That means less salt, more efficiency and less equipment, bridge deck and vehicle corrosion.
The sugar beet juice is brown in color so salt mixed with it is somewhat brown. The liquid is a by-product of sugar production.
Annually, MoDOT spends approximately $41 million on snow and ice removal. Last year, approximately 3,500 dedicated employees spent more than 554,000 hours using the 1,650 snow-removal vehicles, which added up to $43 million on snow and ice prevention and removal.
"Although we're constantly looking for new products to clear roads better, and our crews are out there working hard to keep them clear, it is also the motorist's job to drive cautiously, pay extra attention to signs and drive defensively," Carney said. "Remember to give snowplows plenty of room to work, don't tailgate and try not to pass."
For information on road conditions across the state, safe traveling tips and a diagram on driveway clearing techniques, visit modot.org or call 888-ASK MODOT.
# # #
Editor's note: Downloadable audio and video clips featuring Tim Jackson, MoDOT's maintenance liaison engineer, are available at ftp://ftp.modot.org/CRmedia/News%20Stories/Cold%20WX%20and%20Beet%20Juice/. To view this FTP site in Windows Explorer, click Page, and then click Open FTP Site in Windows Explorer. Then you can grab the files and drag them onto your desktop.