Managing Icy Roads

With Salt and Sand 

The City of Ramsey uses various salt, sand and chemical brine to provide traction in the City depending on winter weather conditions. City streets are considered any road with a green street sign on it. 

Sand alone does not have ice-melting capability and is primarily used as an abrasive to provide temporary traction. It works best on hard-packed snow. When used on ice, sand tends to “bounce” when it comes out of the truck and lands on the roadside. The City uses a mixture of approximately 15 percent salt and 85 percent sand. The salt prevents the sand from freezing into clumps and provides some ice-melting capability. The sand and salt mixture is only used in extremely cold weather or freezing rain.

Pure salt is used on all primary roads in Ramsey and intersections to help control ice. Salt has a practical working temperature of 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Water typically freezes at 32 degrees, but with the introduction of salt, the freezing temperature is lowered to the 15 to 20 degree range. As temperatures fall, the salt needed to melt ice increases significantly. Salt is five times more effective at 30 degrees than at 20 degrees. 

Ramsey, like many communities, is now pre-wetting its salt. This is accomplished by placing a liquid storage tank at the rear of a sanding truck to turn the salt into a brine as it comes off the spinner. The liquid provides moisture to the salt and speeds up the melting process. In addition, the wet salt tends to bounce or be blown off the road less. By wetting, savings in lost or wasted salt can be as high as 20 to 30 percent.

With 186 plus miles of roadway and approximately 860 intersections, the City relies on the Police Department and citizens to alert the Public Works Department of problems that may occur because of extremely cold temperatures. Traffic can also cause slippery areas by tracking the salt out of an intersection or packing down the snow before the salt can work. Maintenance crews do initial salting as they plow City roads after a storm and sometimes problem areas occur before they return to an area.